Friday, October 31, 2008

Kenya fights for Global Health funds

Public Health minister Beth Mugo addresses the press at her Afya House office in Nairobi on Friday. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI  

By CAROLINE WAFULA

Whether Kenya will continue receiving financial support to fight the three major killer diseases — malaria, tuberculosis and Aids — will be known soon.

Kenya will be arguing its case at the Global Fund in Geneva in a week’s time amid claims of lack of accountability in its spending.

On Friday Public Health minister Beth Mugo dismissed reports that Kenya had been blacklisted by the fund, saying the Government was optimistic that Kenya will retain its place on the Global Fund grants list for Round 8 and 9.

The minister said it was too early to conclude that Kenya will not be able to submit the Round 8 proposals for Sh24 billion and beat the January deadline for the Round 9 funding proposals.

“We have not really been blacklisted. We just have to supply some information that the Global Fund wants. Otherwise we have until January 21 to submit proposals for Round 9,” she said.

She said it was premature to say that Kenya should not apply for another round of funding, contradicting Medical Services counterpart Prof Anyang Nyong’o who early this week called for an immediate suspension of the Round 9 proposals.

“We cannot suspend the proposals for funding as it would spell doom for crucial health programmes,” she said.

Billions of dollars

The meeting with the Global Fund comes against the backdrop of a recommendation by the Global Fund’s technical review panel that Kenya’s proposal for the Round 8 funding be rejected, saying billions of dollars are unaccounted for.

The final decision, however, lies with the Fund’s board of directors which meets this month.

About 230,000 Kenyans are on antiretroviral therapy with the HIV prevalence rate standing at 7.8 per cent. Malaria is responsible for 16,000 deaths annually while Kenya is ranked 13 among 32 countries with a high TB burden. There has been an alarming increase in the disease, which claims 70 lives daily.

A high-powered team is preparing for a meeting with the Global Fund where it is expected to argue Kenya’s case to be allowed to submit further proposals for the grant. The meeting, Mrs Mugo said, will clear the air on the funding.

And as part of the preparations, the minister yesterday set up a taskforce to look at the areas of concern and submit a report in seven days.

The taskforce will investigate why Kenya failed to give the Global Fund the required information during submission of the Round 8 proposals.

Was at pains

The team is expected to review the status of the programmes funded under the grant, their cost and financing as well as status of supporting documents.

Taskforce members are representatives from the various departments that handle money from the Global Fund.

Their mandate is to review audit reports, identify any outstanding issues and prepare an appropriate response that the Kenyan delegation will present.

“The Global Fund has not said any money has been misappropriated. This team will therefore establish if any money has been lost. If so where, how and how much? The problem could even lie with poor documentation,” Mrs Mugo said.

The minister was at pains to explain that the taskforce was not an investigating body.
“The taskforce will only seek information from people who were responsible for the fund, which is different from a probe,” she said.

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