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Tarnished aid fund says others in worse shape
Question of the Day
GENEVA | A $21.7 billion health fund championed by the rich and famous has come under harsh scrutiny amid revelations that it's bleeding money to corruption. But fund officials and outside analysts in the field have a stark message for global development: Other aid agencies are in much worse shape.
"The others should follow our lead," the fund's inspector general, John Parsons, said Monday at a news conference organized by the fund's top officials to discuss an Associated Press story about $34 million in losses in several African nations.
Investigations led by Robert Appleton, a veteran former U.S. federal prosecutor whom Mr. Parsons hired last fall to root out corruption, are showing that up to two-thirds of some grants provided by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are lost to graft, and that forged documents and improper bookkeeping account for much of the money.
The fund rocketed to prominence with the backing of celebrity campaigners such as Bono, who portray it as an alternative to U.N. bureaucracy.
On Monday, the organization defended its record. Only a tiny fraction of grants have been examined, but fund officials say the vast majority of the money is going to where it should, based on the results they are seeing in terms of saved lives.
Fund officials and several outside analysts said that although the Global Fund's investigative unit is aggressively tackling corruption, many of the world's biggest development agencies, including the United Nations, don't even look for major corruption in their midst for fear that would turn away donors.
An Associated Press investigation last year found that the United Nations cut back severely on investigations into corruption and fraud within its ranks, shelving cases involving the suspected theft or misuse of millions of dollars. That happened after the U.N. dismantled its anti-corruption Procurement Task Force at the end of 2008.
It's been much the same story at many of the major heavyweight organizations and others that were expected to hand out about $130 billion in aid globally in 2010, according to Transparency International, the Berlin-based anti-corruption advocacy group.
Though many began taking corruption more seriously in the mid-1990s, Transparency International said in a recent report that "accountability in development aid has been low" at many aid agencies, nongovernmental organizations, the World Bank, the United Nations and other development banks and international bodies.
"All aid agencies need to practice greater transparency," said Robin Hodess, Transparency International's director of policy and research.
"There's the need in the developing aid agencies to be accountable," she told AP. "Sometimes there hasn't been enough attention to preventing corruption."
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