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Global Fund suspends $28m AIDS grant in Mali

Wednesday - 10/19/2011, 1:59pm  ET

By MARTIN VOGL
Associated Press

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said Wednesday it will stop a $28 million HIV/AIDS grant to Mali's government after investigators found evidence money is being misused.

The Global Fund said in a statement that it will suspend funding all but essential services under the grant until a new structure can be found to manage the money.

Dr. Youssouf Diallo from Mali's High Council for the Fight Against AIDS called the decision premature and said the Council had not been shown any of the evidence against it.

"This decision is not the right way to work together as partners." Diallo said.

Mali, a poor, landlocked West African nation relies on international donors to fund its health system.

The High Council for the Fight Against AIDS is attached directly to the Malian president's office and the move against the body is not the first preventative measure the Global Fund has taken in Mali.

Earlier this year the Fund suspended another HIV/AIDS grant to Mali worth $13.91 million. That decision followed the announcement in December 2010 of the suspension of funding of two malaria grants and the termination of a third grant for tuberculosis.

The Global Fund's investigative office has also found evidence of fraud in a number of other countries around the world.

In December 2010, the Global Fund announced that Mali and four other countries _ Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Mauritania and Papua New Guinea _ would be subject to special measures and closer scrutiny of their grant activities.

Last month, a high-powered panel assembled to address the problem said the Fund itself would have to take some of the responsibility for losses in countries where it stopped funding because of fraud. The panel concluded that the controls put in place by the Fund to be sure the money is properly disseminated "have not worked as well as intended."

The Board of the Global Fund adopted the panel's recommendations shortly after the report came out.

"We are determined to carry out these changes quickly to ensure that donors and implementing countries maintain absolute confidence that the Global Fund is an efficient and effective funding channel that delivers value for money," said Simon Bland, the Global Fund's Chair, in September.

Sweden said on Tuesday that its donations to the Global Fund were on condition that the body undertakes major reform.

"The Global Fund needs to change from an emergency response mechanism to a sustainable channel for resources for health," said Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson.

Since its creation in 2002, the Fund has become the main financier of programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and has approved $21.7 billion worth of funding around the world.

The Global Fund has grant agreements with Mali totalling $123 million, of which $79 million has already been disbursed.


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