6:00 P.M. EST January 26, 2011 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Questions over funding issues related to The Global Fund do not involve money pledged to that organization by The United Methodist Church to fight malaria in Africa, church officials say.
A Jan. 23 Associated Press story and followup article have focused on mishandling and corruption by those overseeing some grants, as reported by the fund’s own investigator. The problems occurred in four countries out of a total of 145 countries served by the Global Fund.
The denomination’s Imagine No Malaria campaign contributed $590,000 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in December, but the money has not yet been released and will be held for a review of the situation, according to a statement from the campaign. Imagine No Malaria is an initiative of the people of The United Methodist Church to raise funds to help eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015.
“Questions remain about the extent of misuse, how it occurred and what safeguards are needed to prevent further misuse,” the Imagine No Malaria statement said. “However, we are assured by the Global Fund that they have zero tolerance for corruption and actively seek to uncover any evidence of misuse of funds.”
The United Methodist Church and its global health team also have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the use of church funds, says Bishop Thomas Bickerton, head of the campaign. “That’s got to be our standard,” he added, stressing that the money designated for the Global Fund “won’t be released until we agree to it.”
Bickerton said the fund has been “up front” with the denomination about the situation. “The Global Fund detected these problems in their own internal processes for monitoring,” he pointed out. “I think that speaks to the high integrity that we found in our working relationship with the Global Fund.”
The next contribution to the Global Fund is scheduled for June 1, “by which time we hope to have a more complete picture of what has occurred” and determine “the most responsible course of action,” the Imagine No Malaria statement said.
The collaboration between The United Methodist Church and the Global Fund, a public/private partnership, was announced at an Oct. 5 pledging ceremony of the Third Voluntary Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund, chaired by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
More than 40 public and private donors made pledges during the ceremony in partnership with the Global Fund. Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, reported that the denomination would contribute up to $28 million to the Global Fund, based on a successful $75 million Imagine No Malaria campaign. He spoke on behalf of the executive committee of the United Methodist Global Health Initiative, of which Imagine No Malaria is a part.
In a Jan. 24 statement, The Global Fund said the news report about the misuse of grants represented a small amount of its funding and “refers to well-known incidents that have been reported by the Global Fund and acted on last year. There are no new revelations in yesterday’s media reports.”
Last year, the Global Fund’s inspector general found “grave misuse of funds” in Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania and Zambia and took steps “to recover misappropriated funds and to prevent future misuse of grant money,” the statement said. “In total, the Global Fund is demanding the recovery of U.S. $34 million unaccounted for in these and other countries out of a total disbursement of U.S. $13 billion.”
Criminal proceedings are under way and special safeguards, such as restrictions on cash transfers, have been imposed on continuing grants in three of those countries as well as in Côte d’Ivoire and Papua New Guinea, the statement said.
Through its own malaria-related programs, including the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination will continue to distribute funds, develop local health boards and monitor financial management “in an effort to bring an increased presence of integrity to our work on the continent of Africa.”
“These incidents underscore why it is so critical for faith-based organizations to aid in the establishment of fiscally responsible delivery and accountability systems,” the Imagine No Malaria statement stressed. “When given a voice, faith-based organizations like The United Methodist Church are in a position to help ensure that resources are used responsibly.”
*Bloom is a UMNS multimedia reporter based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.