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Another Corruption Scandal Hits Kenya's AIDS Control Council - 2003-11-13

An official with Kenya's National AIDS Control Council was suspended for allegedly stealing money earmarked for AIDS projects.

The misappropriation of AIDS funds was uncovered by the National AIDS Control Council in a random spot check of its northeastern office. The inspectors found the provincial AIDS control coordinator, Ali Ahmed Adan, had registered four bogus AIDS organizations in Garissa Town and collected almost $26,000 on their behalf.

The council's acting director, Dr. Patrick Orege, says the official went as far as to make up minutes of meetings for these non-existent groups.

Dr. Orege says the council suspended Mr. Adan and is looking at ways of restructuring the council to prevent further fraud.

"It is a matter that was of great concern to the council and the council is already taking appropriate step[s]," he said.

Last month, the council's former director, Dr. Margaret Gachara, was fired for forgery. The council discovered she had faked her salary records from former employers to demand a much higher income from the council. Dr. Gachara ended up earning $26,000 a month, well above what she was initially offered.

The director of the Kenya AIDS organization Consortium, Allan Ragi, says the money involved in the latest scandal could have been used to fund legitimate groups.

"It makes it very difficult for organizations to access money, especially those at the community level," he acknowledged.

Mr. Ragi says people in the AIDS field in Kenya and abroad are questioning the council's ability to manage the country's AIDS program, and says the controversy occurs just as Kenya is trying to clean up its image.

"We are coming from a time when Kenya was tainted with corruption; second, a time when Kenya itself is almost in an about-turn in terms of turning the [AIDS] epidemic downwards," Mr. Ragi said.

But Dr. Orege has urged donors not to lose confidence, saying the council is being restructured to prevent fraud in the future. He said the Garissa Town case was unique and there was no other evidence of fraud found.