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Global Fund declines grant as questions linger over financial management

[Uganda] The distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITN), both in the most populated and the more isolated regions of sub-Saharan Africa is proving to be a crucial step in the fight against malaria.
The distribution of insecticide treated bed nets is effective in the battle against malaria (Stephenie Hollyman/WHO)

Ugandan health officials on Monday said they would seek alternative funding for anti-malaria projects after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria declined a grant application of US$16 million because of concerns over financial mismanagement.

Junior health minister Emmanuel Otaala said the government had received a letter from the Global Fund stating that the funds would not be forthcoming, but he declined to give reasons for the decision.

According to a newsletter published by Aidspan, a non-governmental organisation that describes itself as an independent watchdog over the Global Fund, the decision was made because of Uganda's "unsatisfactory performance”.

The Global Fund has in the past questioned the Ugandan government over the lack of accountability in implementing Fund projects. In August 2005 the Fund suspended five grants worth $367 million on accountability concerns, but reversed the decision in November 2005 after both parties agreed to overhaul the management of the funds. A subsequent inquiry revealed gross mismanagement.

The latest suspension of the anti-malaria grant suggests that not all the problems have been ironed out.

Otaala said the Ugandan government had made a request for funding for its TB and malaria-fighting component of the project. "We applied for funding but they [Global Fund] were not satisfied and they communicated their decision about two weeks ago," Otaala told IRIN.

"We can't force them. They sometimes give to some programmes and leave out others, but we are now applying for the next round and our documents must be submitted in the next two months. We also try to look for alternative funding because we do not get funding only from the Global Fund. We also get funding from USAID [US Agency for International Development] and other donors. We shall look for alternative funding," said Otaala.

He said the $16 million was specifically for programmes to fight malaria, but he declined to detail the Fund’s objections.

The findings of a judicial probe into the misuse of resources from the Global Fund found three health ministry officials responsible for the mismanagement and recommended sanctions against all those mentioned in the scam. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sacked the health minister Jim Muhwezi and his two deputies, Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha, in a cabinet reshuffle last May, but the report said they should probably face prosecution for their role in the embezzlement of funds.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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