May 27, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
Concerned citizens interviewed by Concord Times have cautioned the government of Sierra Leone as the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) has committed a whopping sum of $1 million towards the upcoming measles and polio campaigns.
In the year 2013, GAVI discovered massive misappropriation of funds it had remitted to Sierra Leone and threatened to hold back payment of the last undisbursed tranche to the Health System Strengthening cash support to Sierra Leone, totalling approximately US$530,000, and that no new HSS funding will be disbursed to the country until the matter was resolved.
“The GAVI Alliance has recently discovered indications of misuse in its health system strengthening (HSS) cash support to Sierra Leone following a Financial Management Assessment conducted by the GAVI Secretariat’s transparency and accountability team. The Alliance takes all suspected and confirmed cases of misuse of funds very seriously. When GAVI suspects misuse of a grant, all cash disbursements to the relevant programme are halted,” they noted.
Upon such pronouncement, the Anti-Corruption Commission indicted 7 medical doctors and 22 others from the National Health Sector Support project at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, National Revenue Authority (NRA) official, and a Mines Engineer, for the misused of GAVI funds meant for polio immunization covering the period of 2008-2009.
They were charged with various corruption offences in the High Court of Sierra Leone before Justice M.A. Paul who, on 2 July, 2014, imposed custodial sentences of six years each on Dr. Magnus Ken Gborie, Dr. Edward Magbity, staff of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and Lansana Roberts, proprietor of Rolaan Enterprises.
Satisfied with the step taken by the government in bringing to book those behind the misappropriation of the funds, GAVI disbursed the remaining tranche of money following the conviction of some of the accused persons.
Meanwhile, the Alliance has again committed another $1 million towards the forthcoming national immunization campaign, which pronouncement was made at the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva, where GAVI officials met with Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abubakarr Fofanah, and expressed their satisfaction over ongoing reforms in his ministry, including the re-establishment of the Integrated Health Projects Administration Unit (IHPAU).
However, Robert Kargbo of Health Network-Sierra Leone has called on the government to properly monitor the utilization of the funds and to involve civil society in the monitoring process, in a bid to prevent another misappropriation of the funds.