The United Nations (UN) has added its voice to concerns over the rate at which financial resources meant for the fight against HIV and Aids are being plundered in the country.
The UN says there is need for “the highest level of accountability for people living with HIV”.
Speaking in Lilongwe yesterday during this year’s International Candlelight Memorial, UN resident coordinator Mia Seppo said the plunder is derailing efforts to contain the spread of the virus and further impact on the gains already made.
Her concerns come barely weeks after an audit report by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that K2.5 billion meant for HIV and Aids fight was siphoned out of the Ministry of Health (MoH) accounts through various dubious means between 2013 and 2015.
The stolen money was sourced from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States of America.
Said Seppo: “I am certain that Malawians are tired of reports, day in day out, of gross financial mismanagement of HIV resources and the theft and expiry of medicines.”
“I want to commend you, Honourable Minister of Health, for demonstrating a business unusual approach and bringing culprits to book. However, we still need to do much more and sustain the highest level of accountability for people living with HIV.”
She also expressed concern with the time women take to know the [sero] status of their children and failure by various non-governmental organisations to consider “acutely-malnourished” people living with HIV and Aids and tuberculosis (TB) in their food distribution programmes.
Seppo disclosed that field reports in their possession indicate that people living with HIV and Aids and tuberculosis (TB) “have fallen through the cracks in food distribution programmes”.
“In implementing this programme, every single child who is tested for HIV must receive their result and be linked to treatment where required. We cannot afford to lose any more people,” she emphasised.
Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume said the UN had valid reasons to raise the concerns.
Kumpalume said government remains committed towards sealing all loopholes in the health sector, including those that have led to gross mismanagement of HIV and Aids funds.
The 2016 IACM events will be held under the theme ‘Engage, Educate, and Empower: A Call to Renewed Commitment Towards the HIV Response’.
An audit report by NAO revealed that K2 520 272 421.62 (about $4million) was siphoned from the ministry’s accounts through various dubious means between 2013 and 2015.
Among others, the report indicates that K12 116 800 was issued through transpositioning of designations with intent to defraud; allowances amounting to K61 537 000 (about $96 000) were given to non-deserving staff at the ministry; a total o K73 475 400 (about $114 626) was given to individuals using unauthorized daily subsistence rates.
The Parliamentary Committee on Health has since said it wants to meet Kumpalume and other senior officials from the ministry for an explanation on the theft.