By: Varney Dukuly
GENEVA/MONROVIA: What seems to be a damaging international investigative report emanating from Global Fund Inspector-General’s Office has been released relative to Liberia’s healthcare sector, highlighting systemic fraud, misappropriation, and various types of wrongdoing.
The report also showcased non-implementation of what Global Fund refers to as “Non-compliant expenditures,” totaling a whopping US$1.1 million by staff of the Ministry of Health, a principal recipient for Global Fund grants in Liberia.
The report further indicated that there has been systemic fraud and misappropriation and various types of wrongdoing in 91% of the expenditures reviewed.
The Report: “Non-compliant expenditures totaled US$1.1 million, of which we recommend recovery of US$0.99 million.
According to the report, staff of the National AIDS Control Program conducted fraudulent procurements of both vehicle repairs and advertising services, for which there is no reasonable assurance of delivery.”
The Switzerland-based Global Fund report comes at a time when Liberia’s health sector is faced with daunting challenges ranging from lack of efficient health care services, absence of essential drugs at major health facilities in both urban rural areas, unbridled and ingrained corruption.
The latest report from the influential and powerful global healthcare group that showcases systemic fraud and misappropriation at the state-owned Ministry of Health covers two successive Liberian administrations including the erstwhile regime of Ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (EJS) and the incumbent administration of President George Manneh Weah.
The report further states that: “No assurance could be provided over program delivery in 75% of MoH’s field activities that we reviewed.”
It also accuses the Ministry of Health, headed by Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, of “overcharging” Global Fund for daily subsistence allowances and misused grant funds by providing incorrect allowances and catering expenses”.
The Global Fund’s US$0.25 million investment into the mother peer program for early infant diagnosis, according to the report, produced a small number of inadequate reports that were not used.
The report added that contrary to Grant Regulations, the MoH used grant funds to pay taxes on fuel, and knowingly misrepresented the grants’ tax-exempt status to the Global Fund.
Global Fund described as insufficient the Ministry of Health’s internal control system, policies and oversight measure.
“MoH controls, policies, and oversight to mitigate fraud and misappropriation were either insufficient or did not exist,” the report pointed out.
“Where they existed,” according to the report, “They were overridden. The Global Fund has implemented several internal controls to address this issue, and further controls will be implemented as a result of this investigation,” the report asserted.
Interestingly, however, the report said, “Global Fund’s Fiscal Agent became aware of the wrongdoing identified in this investigation in 2015 but continued to approve MoH expenditures and did not adequately mitigate the risk of fraud.”
“The Fiscal Agent also engaged in conflicts of interest and misappropriation, including accepting grant funds for DSA and fuel coupons for activities that did not take place.
DSA is said to mean Daily Subsistence Allowance. The report added that a new Fiscal Agent was appointed in 2022.
“The Global Fund Secretariat was aware of fraud red flags and other wrongdoing in MoH-managed grants from 2015, but did not report the matters at issue in this investigation to the Office of the Inspector General,” the report stressed. The Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health is yet to give its reaction to the Global Fund Report.