The future of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria control programmes in Pakistan have been put in jeopardy owing to gross misuse and violation of the Global Fund’s grants of more than $400 million by the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) Secretariat.
A 55-page long audit report completed last week shed light on 37 clauses of serious violations of the Global Fund’s guidelines and financial irregularities, including incorrect payment processes and overspending by the CCM in many cases.
The CCM is an administrative unit that manages health-related projects of international donors and ensures accountability and transparency in their implementation.
The report stated that a separate bank account was maintained by the CCM Secretariat, due to which auditors were not able to evaluate the correct amount of expenditure. Meanwhile, accounting books were not maintained, the report added. According to the management of the CCM Secretariat, the books were maintained by the National AIDS Controls Programme (NACP), which was the principal recipient of the Global Fund grant.
The report further shed light on the implications of this irregularity, stating, “In the absence of books of accounts, we were unable to verify the completeness and accuracy of the expenditure charged to the Global Fund grants”.
Portfolio Manager of the Global Fund Dr Werner Buhler said, “There is a clear need for structural reform in the CCM Secretariat and I would like to urge the CCM chair and vice chair to take a decisive lead in this reform”.
According to him, freezing of funds for the CCM was not a punitive, but a cautionary measure.
“We have decided to resume funding for salaries, in order to avoid unnecessary hardship for staff. The NACP has been informed of the same,” he said.
The audit report further stated, “An independent confirmation of closing bank balance could not be obtained as the CCM funds are maintained in a pool account with the NACP”.
“Payment Vouchers were not approved by a competent authority,” it added.
It also highlighted duplication of spending where the Ministry of Health (MoH) was supposed to pay, yet the payment was billed to the Global Fund.
“Travelling and communication costs were to be funded by the MoH. However, $1,400 were charged to the Global Fund on account of travelling and communication costs,” the report stated.
When contacted, CCM Secretary Zarina Kasur refused to accept the findings of the audit report and said she is not the appropriate person to comment on the development.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.