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Daily Report Global Health Conversations: Health Sector Corruption

Recent media reports have drawn attention to an internal audit that revealed several countries’ misuse of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria grant money, totaling $34 million. The Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report’s Jennifer Evans spoke with Bill Savedoff, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, to help put the audit’s findings into context and discuss the fund’s response to corruption. Savedoff recently co-authored the book, “Anticorruption in the Health Sector: Strategies for Transparency and Accountability.”

“When you look at the $34 million in [the] context [of the $13 billion dispersed to date by the fund], it’s less than 0.3 percent of the total they’ve disbursed,” Savedoff said. “What concerns me most is that we don’t know if this is the tip of the iceberg or whether this is all of the corruption with this fund,” he added, before describing the factors that make the health sector particularly susceptible to corruption.

Savedoff “congratulated” the Global Fund on its recently announced anti-corruption efforts, but said he’d like to see the fund “stay true to their original approach which was to control corruption by making sure that results happen” in recipient countries. “Measuring results is one of the best tools for any NGO, foundation, or agency to convince its donors to put in money,” Savedoff said.

“It’s a tragic dilemma that in some ways there’s an incentive not to disclose when there’s corruption,” Savedoff added. However, he added, “If you have a good measure of what you’ve accomplished, then you can say, ‘We’ve accomplished this even though 1 percent of our money we weren’t able to account for, but we’ve made this big impact with the other 99 percent.’ By focusing on and independently measuring the results you are actually constraining the capacity for people implementing the programs to divert money.”

This audio interview is part of the Daily Report’s Global Health Conversations series featuring global health thought leaders discussing topical issues pertaining to U.S. policy on global health.