At the 10-Year Mark, the Global Fund Readies for a New Chapter

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Last month, an independent high-level panel issued a report on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the world's largest financier of lifesaving health programs for the world's most in need. The panel, co-chaired by former Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt and former President of Botswana Festus Mogae, was initiated by the Global Fund to thoroughly review its fiduciary controls and oversight procedures.

The report, aptly titled "Turning the Page from Emergency to Sustainability," focuses on the Global Fund's transition from a highly effective emergency response to the three pandemics, to a long-term sustainable mechanism for ensuring that its lifesaving work can continue in times of limited resources. As it heads toward its 10-year anniversary, the Global Fund is embracing the panel's recommendations, strengthening its commitment to best practices and "turning the page" in its fight against the three diseases.

An important part of this transition is the involvement of civil society. On this score, the Global Fund received high marks from the panel, which praised the Global Fund's "ability to 'galvanize everyone' and bring government, charitable groups, the private sector, donors, U.N. agencies and affected populations to the same table in the service of a common cause." This commitment to partnership, and the template for good governance set down by the Global Fund's grant management model, is crucial to ensuring countries can one day "graduate" from Global Fund support and create sustainable programs into the future.

The report continues: "The Global Fund has made ordinary and expected what was unthinkable in dozens of nations ten years ago, as in the following examples:
  • HIV-positive people meet regularly and openly with ministers and presidents and appear in the media;
  • Governments must account for spending that previously would have been off-the-books;
  • Faith-based organizations coordinate the delivery of health care with State-operated institutions;
  • [Nongovernmental organizations] bid for funds in transparent tenders;
  • Donors engage recipients on their terms [with donor oversight]; and
  • Ordinary citizens stand to represent their peers in competitive elections."

These are impressive strides but, as the report also points out, they don't come without serious challenges; among them, the occasional, unacceptable misuse of funds. At the time of its inception in 2002, the Global Fund and its creators were well aware of the risks inherent in its ambitious effort to finance lifesaving care in fragile states. That is exactly why it built its model on a foundation of transparency and accountability, in the knowledge that only by holding wrongdoers accountable, recovering any misused funds and constantly improving its oversight procedures can the mission of saving lives be sustained.

In this spirit, the Global Fund Inspector General (IG) released a number of reports this week that include information about the misuse and recovery of funds. The reports, part of an ongoing, cooperative effort of the Global Fund Secretariat and IG, demonstrate the Global Fund's continuing zero tolerance policy for fraud in action.

No one can guarantee that waste and misuse will never occur, but the Global Fund can guarantee that it will use the full force of the law to discover it, correct it and make the findings public. These latest reports are yet more evidence that the system of transparency and accountability is working. This should be embraced and expanded.

Shifting from an emergency response to long-term sustainability -- particularly in this tough economic environment -- will require an even stronger emphasis on oversight, ensuring that U.S. taxpayer dollars are used effectively and efficiently. The Global Fund continues to demonstrate that it's up to the challenge. In fact, two months after the release of the high-level panel's report, it will approve a detailed plan at its next board meeting to put the panel's recommendations into action quickly.

The Global Fund's embrace of these recommendations is yet another signal that the Global Fund is deeply committed to doing whatever it takes to safeguard donor resources and expand results. The Global Fund is working every day to ensure that resources are devoted to provide lifesaving health interventions to those most in need. These new IG reports are more evidence that it won't back down.

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