CIVIL SOCIETY SAYS ‘KUDOS TO ACC’ FOR GAVI FUNDING TO HEALTH MINISTRY
by Abubakarr Turay (ABT)
The Executive Director of Health Alert, one of the civil society groups monitoring health programmes in Sierra Leone, has praised the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for its intervention in prosecuting officials of the Ministry of Health who allegedly misappropriated the GAVI funds.
Victor Koroma said when allegations came up following the audit report by the GAVI Alliance about the funds given to the health ministry, it was almost certain that the country was going to lose an important donor partner for its health programmes. “Losing an important partner like GAVI would have resulted in some major challenges to the government’s immunization programme and the health sector as a whole”, he said.
He added that his organisation was sure that the resumption of support to the ministry was as a result of the fact that officials of GAVI were satisfied with the steps taken by the country, and most importantly, the decision by the ACC to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of mismanaging the funds.
Sierra Leone has just been awarded a 5.4 million dollar grant by the Alliance after the suspension of support to the country following the alleged misappropriation of about 1 million dollars by the Ministry of Health, the direct recipient of the GAVI support.
Responding to this development, the Director of Public Education and External Outreach, Shollay Davies said this is “a welcome news for the people of Sierra Leone, especially the children who need the vaccination and other medical care”. He noted that this is an “affirmation of some of the achievements of the ACC in fostering transparency and accountability in governance, which is the sine qua non for donor support”.
Jonathan Abass Kamara, Public Relations Officer of the health ministry said the minister-in-charge, Mitta Kargbo, has already set up a unit responsible for the management of all donor funds to the ministry.
The Executive Director of Health Alert said it was good now that the health ministry had put in place such a unit, but called on the ministry to ensure that the said unit is structured in a manner that would make it resistant to corruption.
The GAVI support to Sierra Leone has now summed up to over 24 million dollars since 2000. The funds are being used for the purchase of vaccines such as the five-in-one shots which protects children against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Hib.