Sweden has withheld its pledge to
the Global Fund because of concerns about the misuse of US$25 million in grants
in four African countries.
third pledging round of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
in New York, Sweden's AIDS Ambassador Anders Nordström surprised the gathering
by announcing that Sweden would not be making a pledge. The decision is a
response to findings by the Global Fund's Office of the Inspector General, which
has identified cases of misappropriated grant money in Cameroon, Mauritania,
Mali, and Zambia.
Nordström says Sweden, which has contributed US$85
million a year over the past 3 years to the Global Fund, has concerns about how
the Fund has responded to these cases. "There is a certain pattern here and we'd
like to see how the Global Fund is handling these cases; how the Fund behaves
when fraud is detected in a country", he says. Nordström denies that Sweden is
cutting support to the Global Fund, and insists that Sweden remains a "concerned
and engaged partner".
"Sweden is doing this because we would like to
ensure to the maximum that resources are used to achieve the intended health
outcomes and nothing else. We want to see progress on the broader reform agenda
of the Global Fund. And we will continue our dialogue with them through the
fall," he says. The final pledging decision will be taken at the political
The Office of the Inspector General has identified cases of
corruption in Cameroon, where about $3 million must be repaid to the Global
Fund; in Zambia, where almost $12 million in ineligible expenditures have been
identified, and $1 million in non-delivered goods must be returned; in Mali,
where about $4 million in grant funds have been misappropriated; and in
Mauritania, where $6·7 million is unaccounted for. That adds up to about $25
million in misused funds, about 5% of the total $500 million in funds disbursed
to these countries.
According to Stefan Emblad, Director of Resource
Mobilisation at the Global Fund, all misused funds identified by the Inspector
General must be repaid by countries. "We have from the beginning been aware that
we sometimes work in very risky environments", he says. He notes that some of
the measures that are in place to ensure that grant money is not lost to
corruption include an independent Inspector General who reports to the Board,
and a "robust response" when fraud is discovered.
"There is a realisation
that as the Global Fund has become so large, there is a need to further
strengthen our systems", Emblad says. He points to an ongoing discussion about
how to strengthen effectiveness at country level, and is hopeful that Sweden
will be satisfied with the measures being taken and renew its
Meanwhile, MSF Sweden is highly critical of Sweden's move.
President of MSF Sweden Kristina Bolme Kühn welcomes the Swedish Government's
Open Aid Initiative, which aims to make Swedish aid more transparent. But she
questions the choice of the Global Fund to make this "political
"Of course there is always corruption when money is involved.
It's not that we are naïve. But the Global Fund is one of the most transparent
organisations we know about. When corruption occurs, they take every step to
recover the funds", she says. "We wonder why [Sweden] has chosen to target
Global Fund, which is highly innovative when it comes to transparency. I would
understand if [they withheld funds from] the World Bank or Sida, but why Global
Fund? I fear this does more harm than good."
The Global Fund received
$11·7 billion for 2011—13 from donors in the latest pledging round. This is 20%
more than the fund received for 2008—10, but still falls well short of what the
fund said is needed to maintain progress. Emblad insists that all ongoing
programmes will continue to be funded, "but it means the scale-up will not be as
a big or as fast as we had planned", he says.
Usher writes on aid politics for