Global Fund, an international donor agency, has accused officials of a Nigerian civil society organisation (CSO) of stealing from money meant for their staff salaries.
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is an international financing organisation founded by billionaire American couple, Bill and Melinda Gates; recently deceased former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan; Amir Attaran and Jeffrey Sachs.
Since it started operation in Nigeria in 2003, it has disbursed $1.1 billion in the fight against the three major diseases; HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, making its investments in Nigeria one of its biggest.
However, the latest report indicted officials of Civil Society for the Eradication of Tuberculosis in Nigeria (TB Network) of misappropriating $51,038 (N18.4 million).
The principal recipients of Global Funds grants on TB in Nigeria are the Institute of Human Virology of Nigeria (IHVN) and the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH).
TB Network has been a sub-recipient of the grants in Nigeria since 2013.
The CSO currently implements activities on two tuberculosis (TB) grants: NGA-T-ARFH, under the Principal Recipient Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), working on its active case finding (ACF) programme and NGA-T-IHVN under the Principal Recipient Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), working on its multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB programme.
TB Network was also a sub-recipient of the Global Fund HIV grant NGA-H-ARFH for the period January 2013 to December 2017, working on its community systems strengthening (CSS) programme.
Nigeria is classified as one of the 10 highest Tuberculosis and Multiple Drug Resistance-TB countries in the world. Most of the TB interventions in the country are funded by Global Fund and the federal government.
Nigeria’s TB burden is estimated at 219 per 100,000 people. About 100,433 TB cases were notified across the country in 2016. The treatment rate for new and relapse cases were 84 per cent, while treatment coverage was 24 per cent.
However, in a report published on its website this month, Global Fund said Management of TB Network “organised a scheme to misappropriate money from salaries and allowances paid to other TB Network employees over a period of 14 months.”
The Office of the Inspector-General (OIG) of the Global Fund said it was alerted to the fraud July 2017, a year after it started.
OIG in its report also accused IHVN of wrongdoing because it failed to inform Global Fund about the fraud, despite having knowledge of it.
This, they said breached IHVN’s obligations to report back any concerns involving or affecting the integrity of Global Fund resources.
The OIG said it was informed about the potential mandatory salary and Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA) deduction scheme operated by the Management of TB Network.
The information given to OIG indicated that the scheme used in misappropriating the fund had been in place since July 1, 2016. The OIG after authenticating the information carried out an investigation which covered July 1, 2016 to September 2017.
It said after its investigation, it found the CSO culpable of non-compliant expenditure totalling $63,580. The OIG proposes recovering the total amount of non-compliant expenditure.
The allegations against TB Network include coercion, collusion, fraud and non-compliance with Grant Agreement.
According to the report of the OIG investigation, between July 2016 and September 30, 2017, 28 employees paid N16, 791,646 ($51,038) from their salaries and or Daily Subsistence Allowance entitlement to the scheme organised TB Network.
This fraud was allegedly perpetuated by the National Coordinator of the CSO, assisted by the former finance manager and a programme internal auditor.
Employees made payments to the personal bank accounts of the former finance manager and later to the programme’s internal auditor who, acting on the instructions of the national coordinator, were responsible for collecting and distributing the funds, OIG said.
It was also found that TB Network management also colluded to misappropriate funds paid as salaries to five employees, totalling N3,536,797 ($10, 750).
These employees received salary payment for two months that they were not entitled to and which they were required to pay to the scheme.
The operation of the scheme and the actions of TB Network management breach Global Fund’s Code of Conduct for Recipients, OIG said.
OIG found out that TB Network management and its National Secretary benefitted substantially from the funds collected from the staff while misleading Global Fund that the deductions were paid for office support staff and running cost.
However, the national secretary was not found to be involved in the implementation of the scheme and said the employees contributed to it voluntarily.