Global Fund demands reimbursement from Govt – Minister Norton

first_imgMultimillion-dollar fraud…culpable individuals to be sanctionedBy: Devina SamarooGovernment is under pressure to find some G$15 million to recompense the Global Fund InternationalPublic Health Minister, Dr George NortonOrganisation, after an investigation into its local malaria programme unearthed massive corruption.Public Health Minister Dr George Norton during an interview with the media on Sunday said the international organisation has demanded that the Government of Guyana repay the amount that was found to be swindled under the programme.Reports indicate that these irregularities affected expenditures totalling US$72,973.“It is quite a large sum of US dollars and it is aimed directly against the government,” Norton remarked, noting that sanctions are very well underway for culpable persons.However, Dr Norton said government will be launching its own investigation into the fraud findings before any further action is taken.Following complaints of incessant irregularities in the Global Fund malaria grant in Guyana, the organisation commenced an investigation into the matter, covering the period January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.According to the investigation findings, there were complaints of fabricated data in relation to the distribution of bed nets, malaria surveillance activities and associated fraudulent expenditures, including ‘per diems’ and fuel for programmatic work that allegedly did not take place.The irregularities were facilitated by the inadequate management of the Global Fund malaria programme by the Vector Control Services (VCS) of the Public Health Ministry, which included poor record-keeping and a failure to respond to Global Fund Secretariat Management Actions.During the period under investigation, Dr Reyaud Rahman was Director of VCS. He resigned in December 2015.Dr Norton said it “speaks volumes” that Dr Rahman along with four senior officers resigned from their positions upon completion of the investigation.The minister had previously indicated that with an allegation of corruption and fraud of such magnitude being levied against the government, an investigation will have to be launched to confirm the validity of the information and determine the best course of action to be taken in addressing this messy situation.He had also expressed concerns that this situation might blacklist Guyana from receiving funding in the future.“At this point in time, paying any debt of that nature would certainly not be in the best interest of the economy of the country. We cannot afford to do that. It is unfortunate that this had to happen, we are definitely in need of such funding and we are just hoping that this will not affect us in the future to access such funding,” he expressed.Meanwhile, the report said the investigation found evidence that VCS employees inflated the number of long-lasting insecticide impregnated mosquito nets reported as distributed and had fabricated underlying bed net distribution documents to support the inflated figures.Additionally, the report said VCS employees also fabricated documentation for another surveillance activity relating to the operation of malaria committees.The report further stated that two VCS malaria supervisors responsible for distributing bed nets in the regions confessed that they had inflated bed net distribution figures in the Semester Reports and that they had fabricated underlying documentation to support the figures.The two individuals claimed that an administrative employee had instructed them to inflate the figures.However, when interviewed, the VCS administrative employee denied passing instructions for the figures to be inflated.The report also stated that the former VCS Director claimed he never gave instructions to inflate the figures or fabricate the documents.The report noted that there was an analysis of over 46,000 individual names and signatures on the bed net distribution activity sheets to assess if the activity sheets contained indicators that bed nets had not been distributed to beneficiaries, and upon completion of this exercise, it found that it could not obtain reasonable assurance that 20,981 bed nets, representing 45.2 per cent of the total reviewed, had been delivered to beneficiaries, on the basis of anomalies found in the bed net distribution activity sheets.This figure did not include bed nets where it appeared that a single individual, such as a community health worker, mining camp leader or a family member, had signed legitimately on behalf of a group of individuals.The investigation also found that the average incidence of signature anomalies across the regions and periods under review was similar; indicating that the fabrication of underlying bed net distribution documentation was systematic.last_img read more