The Associated Press ran another senseless gotcha article about the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Once again, they are reporting on an investigation performed by the Global Fund’s own Inspector General. Once again, they’re writing as though this is 1) extremely shocking and 2) somehow the result of investigative reporting by the AP. Neither of these things are true.
To recap, in January, the AP ran an article full of shock, horror, and exaggerations at the discovery that the Global Fund’s internal processes had uncovered corruption. The lede went like this “A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption…” The dauntless Humanosphere blog calculated that the lost funds amounted to approximately 0.3% of all grant funding. And then everyone from the Global Fund itself to experts at the Center for Global Development weighed in to point out that the global fund’s investigators uncovered and reported the fraud themselves, and that .3% of funds is about the same as every major global effort loses to fraud.
Fast forward to this week. The AP runs an article full of shock, horror, and exaggeration at the discovery that the Global Fund’s internal investigators have uncovered corruption. This time, the lede looks like this: “A global health fund believes millions of dollars’ worth of its donated malaria drugs have been stolen in recent years. In internal documents leaked to the Associated Press, officials from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria – backed by big names including the singer Bono and Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft…”
Global Fund spokesperson Jon Liden points out that $1-2.5 million worth of malaria drugs have gone missing, out of approximately $100 million of malaria drugs provided by the Global Fund. The drugs thefts came to light because of the Global Fund’s new focus on fighting corruption, and are in fact part of the corruption that was mentioned in the January report.
I have to admit, I don’t get it. Why is the AP harping on this? Yes, corruption is bad. Because it’s bad, it seems to me that it’s a good thing when a major global donor launches an effort to root out corruption. This is the kind of behavior we should encourage, not punish. And is “backed by celebrities” the only useful thing they have to say about the Global Fund? There is no other way they can describe the largest effort in the world to reduce deaths from our three biggest pandemics?
Look, I hate corruption as much as the next person. Possibly more, since I see its impact every day in my work. But if the AP thinks this is the way to get rid of it, they’re weirdly mistaken. It seems more like they want to get rid of the Global Fund itself.