Global Fund Reveals Bribes to Officials in Cambodia

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced Thursday that it had suspended contracts with two international suppliers of mosquito nets after it discovered they had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to two Cambodian officials over the course of five years.

“The Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General today published an investigation report that found that between 2006 and 2011, two international suppliers paid commissions to two Cambodian officials totaling approximately US$410,000 in return for awarding contracts for insecticide-treated nets that prevent the spread of malaria,” the Global Fund said in a statement posted to its website.

The Global Fund did not name the two officials involved, but identified them as having worked at the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control  and the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control.

“Based on recommendations of its Sanctions Panel, the Global Fund has suspended contracts with the two suppliers, Vestergaard Frandsen and Sumitomo Chemical Singapore, pending a full review,” the statement adds.

According to the statement, both Vestergaard and Sumitomo “fully cooperated with the investigation,” and the companies have since “taken action” against the employees involved in the bri­bery scandal.

In November last year, the Global Fund handed control of its funds in Cambodia to the U.N. Development Program instead of giving it directly to the Cam­bodian government’s National Center for Malaria Control, due to alleged financial mismanagement.

In June last year, the Global Fund also decided to withhold $20 million from Cambodia because of the misuse of past funds.

“We cannot tolerate unethical conduct anywhere,” Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund, said in the statement. “Although this case had no direct impact on Cambodia’s fight against malaria, taking commissions in exchange for contracts violates our mission of public service. We remain fully committed to pursuing fraud and taking action when we find it.”

The investigation carried out by the Global Fund showed that three separate bodies in Cambodia had misused funds. The statement does not name the third body that had been involved in the bribery.

“In addition to the two Cambodian officials who accepted financial inducements from suppliers of nets, the report also cites improper charges and manipulation of procurement practices at two other organizations. The wrongful conduct identified in the report involves a total of approximately US$431,000,” the statement says.

The investigation found that, while a Global Fund grant in Cambodia was compromised by the commission payments, all the mosquito nets procured by that grant were distributed as intended.

Cambodian government officials could not be reached for comment.

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