Mali has arrested 15 people accused of embezzling grant money meant to help the country battle malaria and tuberculosis.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to date has disbursed nearly $80 million to Mali to combat all three diseases. An ongoing investigation by the Fund's Inspector General found that "senior officials working for grant implementers" had stolen about $4 million of that money by submitting false invoices, creating fake bids, and overcharging for training. As a result, the Fund has suspended two malaria grants and terminated a TB grant, it announced today.
The Washington Post reports that the Global Fund's announcement of the fraud came 2 days after the Malian Health Minister Oumar Ibrahima Toure suddenly resigned without explanation. "The Global Fund tolerates no fraud, and we take public action to stop it, recover lost money and establish new and trustworthy channels for resources so they can reach those in need," said Michel Kazatchkine, the Global Fund's executive director in a statement issued today. "Suspensions are the Global Fund's way of making this clear to all concerned."
The Global Fund says Mali and four other countries—Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Mauritania, and Papua New Guinea—now will receive increased scrutiny and restrictions on their grants. The Fund's inspector general, John Parsons, was traveling and not available for comment, and the specific reasons for these "additional safeguards" remains unclear. But the Fund noted in its press release that it is particularly concerned about inflated training expenses and theft of drugs.