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Anti-Corruption Day: Protecting Our Capacity to Save Lives

Tracy Staines
Inspector General


8 December 2023

To mark International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has refreshed its I Speak Out Now! platform for reporting and learning about all forms of wrongdoing, including corruption. Tracy Staines, the Inspector General, shares why it is crucial to feel empowered to speak out against fraud and abuse.

Amid a tightening fiscal space and the increasingly risky context of the Global Fund’s work, it is now more crucial than ever to speak out against corruption. We all have a role to play in ensuring that hard-won investments reach vulnerable communities, showing value for money to donors and patients alike.

Corruption is the silent scourge faced by the Global Fund in supporting life-saving programs against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Corrupt acts have the potential to chip away at every stage of grant implementation, from the receipt of funds at the highest levels, to health care provision at village health centers. Corruption is also highly adaptable and can easily go undetected if the right safeguards aren’t in place.

My Office, the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), wants Global Fund teams to feel empowered to speak up when they suspect corruption and acts of wrongdoing. This is one of the reasons that we are refreshing the I Speak Out Now! website ahead of International Anti-Corruption Day, 9 December. Anyone can report through this platform, as well as learn more about all forms of wrongdoing, feel better equipped to spot red flags and know how to design processes and controls to prevent misuse or mismanagement in the first place.


An Inherent Risk of Corruption

By the nature of the Global Fund’s work, our programs are prone to being exposed to corruption. Prevalence of the three diseases lies disproportionately in countries with low socio-economic development, high levels of poverty, as well as weak institutions and – even worse – crippling insecurity or conflicts.

This has been exacerbated following the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Global Fund faces simultaneous cross-cutting challenges including climate change, economic constraints and security risks that significantly impact domestic health sectors and consequently our ability to achieve our mission.

These poly-crises, combined with the fiscal constraints for implementer and donor governments, mean there is an even greater need now to actively seek and demonstrate value for money. Corruption thrives in contexts where there are opportunities and incentives for fraud and other wrongdoing, but also where individuals and organizations feel they won’t face consequences. This damaging combination is likely to intensify as the countries in which the Global Fund’s programs are implemented face tightening public purses.


A Robust Approach to Anti-Corruption

My Office plays a necessary role in providing the safeguards and assurance, and ultimately accountability for using grant money as it was intended: to save lives. Where we can, we go to the very last mile, visiting health centers to track against fraud and other wrongdoing associated with corruption.

The Global Fund is exemplary with regard to the transparency of this process and our Office’s investigation and audit reports are available online for anyone to read. The processes are meticulous and often arduous, especially for colleagues and partners who must take time from their operational work to give us access to their programs and data.

Our Disclosure, Whistleblowing, and Anti-Fraud and Corruption policies provide the foundation upon which we can disclose cases of fraud publicly and protect those who report wrongdoing.


A Constantly Evolving Threat

We’ve observed new and changing types of fraud and corruption, requiring an equally agile and innovative response. This evolution includes a rise in allegations related to cyber security and phishing, the quality of products – including weak in-country storage practices and even substandard or counterfeit medicines – as well as compromised data quality.

While the Global Fund’s preventive and detective measures vary across countries, new schemes emerge as identified and traditional fraud risks are addressed. The changing operating environment and new complex schemes challenge existing measures to prevent and respond to non-traditional risks. This requires routine monitoring of the fraud risk landscape and better targeting of prevention and detection measures.

For instance, an investigation relating to the Guinea grants which was published this year revealed that two critical data sets related to the country’s mass distribution campaign of mosquito nets were fraudulently manipulated. These doctored data sets impacted how the total number of beneficiaries in Guinea was counted and in turn the corresponding number of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) required to protect them against malaria.

This data manipulation, particularly the inflation of population counts, led to pre-conditions that made the diversion of nets possible.


Bolstering our Capacity to Thwart Corruption

Looking forward to 2024, we aim to strengthen anti-corruption for the Global Fund by increasing our capacity to conduct pro-active investigations – i.e. investigations not sparked by allegations – equipped with powerful artificial intelligence tools.

But it’s not just incumbent on the OIG and oversight bodies to call out and look for wrongdoing – we all have a role to play in fighting corruption and protecting the impact of the Global Fund’s work. Patients and beneficiaries of Global Fund-funded programs, and the donors who put their trust in us, deserve no less.

The Office of the Inspector General - 2022 Annual Report

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Our aim is to further increase the number of people reporting allegations to the Global Fund and the OIG by increasing efforts to raise awareness on fraud and wrongdoing. These efforts are already paying off. The OIG's Annual Report highlighted that the number of allegations received and screened in 2022 was 164% above target – reaching a total of 360 allegations.

Critically, we also work with Anti-Corruption Bodies and Supreme Audit Institutions in the countries where Global Fund programs are implemented. These domestic institutions form an alliance with the Global Fund to strengthen systems at all levels against corruption.


Anti-Corruption: The Core of our Mission

The Global Fund’s mission would not be possible without the funds it receives through replenishments, nor the trust it has earned from donors in its more than 20 years of existence. It has achieved astonishing results, with more than 59 million lives saved.

"Anti-corruption is a fundamental pillar of the Global Fund’s objectives, and I believe all of us are the gatekeepers of this privileged mandate."

Over the past two years, the Global Fund has worked to build a strong mechanism aimed at fostering sustainable change to fraud risk management in grant implementation. Our unwavering commitment to a zero-tolerance stance on fraud and corruption is embedded in our Policy to Combat Fraud and Corruption.

My Office relies on the help of all Global Fund staff, the partners in-country who implement grants, and beneficiaries who feel empowered to speak up. I invite you to find out more about what wrongdoing in the context of our work looks like, how to report it, and how to empower others to do the same on I Speak Out Now!