25 January 2011

Dear Global Fund, It's Not Easy Being Green

John Heilprin of the AP reports:
A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, The Associated Press has learned. 
Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market.
He continues to list off the findings through the internal audit and it is well worth reading the article.  Then follow it up with reading this post from William Savedoff of the Center for Global Development who says:
When I read the story, though, it didn’t contradict my previous blog. Rather, it demonstrated why it is so difficult for us to have serious discussions about corruption in global health aid.

To be gripping, headlines and articles tend toward the dramatic side of any story with a strong temptation to exaggerate. Yet, the true dimensions of corruption are rarely known because we only hear about the few programs that report problems. So how are we to know what’s really going on?
Celebrity bashing has been and can be quite fun, but I will not do that today. Rather, I will point out the fact that corruption can take place anywhere and with any organization. The Global Fund hoped to be a workaround solution to the UN and it seems that this audit has exposed why things are so slow.

This ties back to the DIY debate. Part of the reason that things operate as they do is because NGOs have adapted and learned how to be more effective over time. They are not perfect by any means, but the hurdles which are encountered are due to findings like what the Global Fund has now learned.

In short, it's not easy being green.