IT is heartwarming that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has commenced investigation of the alleged mismanagement of funds donated to Nigeria for the fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis (TB) by the global health grants organisation, Global Funds. The shocking allegation of financial malfeasance relate to the disbursement of grants made to Nigeria between 2010 and 2014.
The organisation claimed that an audit report on grants made to Nigeria showed that the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) made a $20 million payment to suppliers without confirmation of delivery and also failed to account for $3.7 million in differences for anti-retroviral drugs. It also accused NACA and another agency under the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), of financial indiscipline, and of not retiring money meant for the procurement of health and non-health commodities. An investigation which began in 2014 had also reportedly identified forged and missing expenditure documents.
The Executive Director of Global Funds, Mark Dybul, disclosed that Global Funds had suspended all disbursements to both NACA and NMEP on learning of an audit report’s specifics on weaknesses at the two federal agencies, and petitioned the Federal Government. The petition led to the order for a probe by President Muhammadu Buhari. Other reasons given by Global Funds for the suspension of the grants are the poor quality of health services, treatment disruptions and the fact that the grants were not achieving the impact targets. But, the Director-General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko, denied the suspension of funds disbursement to the agency.
Available statistics show that Global Funds has disbursed more than $1.4 billion in Nigeria since 2003. With a total allocation of $1.1 billion to fighting HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria for 2014-16, Nigeria currently represents the Global Fund’s largest portfolio. Not less than 750,000 out of 1.8 million Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS have accessed treatment with the support from Global Fund.
We commend the Federal Government for ordering an immediate probe of the alleged abuse of donor funds. It is lamentable that corruption has eaten so deep into the fabric of the nation that donor funds that are meant to help in our fight against debilitating diseases are now allegedly being tampered with.
We, therefore, call on those charged with this investigation to leave no stone unturned in their effort to unravel those behind the shady handling of the grants. The EFCC should be thorough in its investigations and ensure that justice is done. There should be no sacred cows in this probe and its findings should not be swept under the carpet as is commonplace in the country.
Anyone who is found to have dealt with these funds in a dishonest manner should be made to face the full wrath of the laws of the land. Punishing the culprits will deter others from toeing a similar path. Those who divert funds that are earmarked for the treatment of these diseases are unmindful of the serious implications of their actions on Nigerians and they should be prosecuted for the criminal action.
There is no doubt that corruption in Nigeria is no longer only a perception problem. It has eaten deep into the nation’s fabric. It is necessary for us to do something drastic to curb this menace before it destroys the entire nation. Let there be stiffer punishment for those found guilty of corruption. We are convinced that stiffer sanctions for corruption convicts will go a long way in stemming the tide of corruption in the country.
The probe into the mismanagement of Global Funds grants should be thorough and conclusive. It should help to restore the confidence of the grants agency in Nigeria’s ability to manage the funds in a judicious manner, and in the best interest of the battle against these diseases in the country.