Mon, Nov 06, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Millions wasted by Red Cross workers in Ebola epidemic

AP, FREETOWN

Fraud by Red Cross workers and others wasted at least US$6 million meant to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the organization confirmed on Saturday.

The revelations follow an internal investigation of how the organization handled more than US$124 million during the epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea between 2014 and last year.

The disease erupted in Guinea and quickly spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The international aid response was initially slow, and money once it arrived was often disbursed quickly in the rush to purchase supplies and get aid workers into the field.

As much as US$2.13 million disappeared as the result of “likely collusion” between Red Cross staff and employees at a Sierra Leonean bank, the investigation found. It is believed that the money was lost when they improperly fixed the exchange rate at the height of the epidemic.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it was “outraged” by what it had uncovered, and was strengthening its efforts to fight corruption, including introducing cash spending limits in “high-risk settings.”

It also plans to send trained auditors along with emergency operations teams and establish “a dedicated and independent internal investigation function.”

“These cases must not in any way diminish the tremendous courage and dedication of thousands of volunteers and staff during the Ebola response. They played a critical and widely recognized role in containing and ending the outbreak, and preventing further spread of the Ebola virus internationally,” IFRC under secretary-general for partnerships Jemilah Mahmood said.

The findings of the internal investigation were first posted online Oct. 20, but were not widely publicized until Friday.

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