On a recent visit to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, I was deeply struck by the words of a 15-year-old I met called Olivier who is living with HIV and receiving treatment with the help of the Global Fund.
He looked at me intensely, his eyes burning with new-found hope, and said: "Thanks to you we are healthy and we can make our dreams come true. Antiretroviral (ARV) medicines are making us strong."
Olivier is one of 5 million people who are getting life-saving treatment in the developing world, compared with a mere handful barely a decade ago. Another 10 million people living with HIV need treatment and will eventually die unless they too are put on medication.
Whenever money intended for people like Olivier is stolen, it is an affront to the donors who put their trust in us and an outrage for people still waiting to start treatment whose lives are hanging by a thread.
That is why the Global Fund, which provides the funding but relies on governments, NGOs and faith-based organizations to implement health programs in the field, pursues corruption so relentlessly and insists that every cent that goes missing is paid back. Our zeal has occasionally come as a shock to some of our recipients who are not used to being held to such exceptionally high standards of transparency and accountability. We see this as a partnership, a joint enterprise between donors and recipients, in which all can learn. We have found, for example, that money intended for training programs has been misappropriated in a number of countries and we are doubling our vigilance in this area.
Fortunately, the dramatic results we are delivering in the fight against the three diseases show that the vast majority of the funds that the Global Fund disburses are reaching people in need. Programs supported by the Global Fund are saving 4,400 lives every day.
A report by the Associated Press on Sunday referred to already well-documented incidents of misappropriation of funds that were reported by the Global Fund last year. While yesterday's media reports contained no real news, they drew attention to the fact that sums of money are sometimes misappropriated by people who are entrusted with managing our grants. What these reports also convey is the Global Fund has no tolerance whatsoever of corruption.
In its report last year, the Global Fund's Inspector General listed grave misuse of funds in four out of the 145 countries which receive grants from the Global Fund. As a result, immediate steps were taken in Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania and Zambia to recover misappropriated funds and to prevent future misuse of grant money.
The Global Fund is at present demanding the recovery of US $39 million unaccounted for in these and other countries out of a total disbursement of US $13 billion. We have already recovered nearly $5 million.
The Global Fund is working with the relevant authorities to ensure that those committing fraud are brought to justice. Criminal proceedings are already underway in Mali, Mauritania and Zambia.
In the words of our Inspector General: "The distinguishing feature of the Global Fund is that it is very open when it uncovers corruption. That is its comparative advantage."
Our openness inevitably leads to publicity every time we uncover wrongdoing. By going after corruption whenever we find it, we are determined to show both our donors and people like Olivier, whose lives depend on our funding, that we will not let them down.