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Aid Agency to Withhold Kenya AIDS Grants - 2003-08-25

An international agency funding the fight against AIDS says it will withhold future grants to Kenya's AIDS control council following allegations of fraud at the top of the agency.

Kenya was due to receive $37 million from a Geneva-based consortium of government and private donors called the Global Funds to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The money, divided between the finance and health ministries and the AIDS control council, was intended to help finance Kenya's campaign against AIDS.

But a top official of the Global Fund, Jon Liden, said the fund will withhold future grants to the council until the government investigates allegations of fraud by the head of the council. "We have instructed the Ministry of Finance that we cannot disperse money to any organization that is under investigation, so disbursements to the Ministry of Health is continuing as normal, but there has been made no disbursements of money to the National AIDS [Control] Council," he said.

The fraud case involves NACC director Dr. Margaret Gachara, who allegedly forged documents about the salary in her previous job in order to get a much higher pay at the council. As a result, Kenyan government paid her almost $27,000 per month. That compares with $4,000 a month called for by the council salary scale.

The Kenyan government suspended Dr. Gachara last Friday, following an internal investigation that exposed details of the forgery and recommended that Dr. Gachara should repay $360,000 to the council and be fired.

Dr. Gachara's assistant, Grace Omodho, says the Global Fund should not withhold the money from NACC. "She is an individual, and the institution continues," she say=id.

Dr. Gachara was unavailable for comment.

The national HIV/AIDS coordinator for ActionAid, Ludfine Anyango Opudo, says Dr. Gachara's suspension might affect the funding and work of AIDS agencies and programs. "In terms of the flow of funding, there could be some kind of a hitch and that definitely translates to the way that activities are implemented," she said.

Ms. Opudo said she hopes donors will recognize that there are many Kenyans committed to fighting the epidemic who should continue to be supported by donations.

Approximately three million people in Kenya are believed to be infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The disease kills about 700 Kenyans each day.