Former Minister of Health, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, has said that several United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are yet to account for funds that were given them to fight the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD). Some of the funds have not yet been used, he stated.
During the first Annual General and Scientific Meeting of the Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons (LCPS) over the weekend where he served as keynote speaker, Dr. Gwenigale recalled that at certain stages in the fight against EVD, millions of dollars were coming into the country, but not directly to the government. That funding, he said, was “infused in the operations of UN agencies and INGOs that operate in the health sector.”
“All the money that was coming into this country during the Ebola period was not coming to the government. They were giving the funds to international NGOs, United Nations agencies, but (people) were coming to the government when other people were saying that the government got the money,” Dr. Gwenigale explained.
He said some of that money is still with people and they have not used it, adding “they must account for those funds.”
He said in situations like the EVD outbreak, or at any other time, the government must have a greater say in how funds are used whenever donors want to help the country.
“So we have to decide if it is coming to us as Liberians, you tell us how much it is that you are giving to people and those people must be told they cannot use it until we tell them where we want it to be used. Funds are still stocked up in the accounts of multilateral NGOs with no proper account of how the funds provided them by donors to fight the EVD were used. When you say the money is for us, use it for us,” declared Dr. Gwenigale.
“You cannot just come and take it and say ‘go help the Liberian people, it is their money and they don’t know anything about it.’ This has happened in many cases with us…the government needed the money, but we never had it. And when it is coming, those who gave it must tell us that it is our money and must be used with the approval of the government and people on how and where they want to use it.”
Prior to Dr. Gwenigale’s revelation, the government has been under persistent criticism for allegedly squandering funds provided by the international community and others to combat the Ebola virus disease that ravaged the country.
The criticisms became intense when the General Auditing Commission (GAC), in an audit report, indicted several individuals, including the head of the Incidence Management System (IMS), for allegedly misappropriating thousands of dollars, though the report was sidetracked and cited for “procedural errors instead of intentional acts of corruption.”
However, it has been discovered that the government is not alone in being accused of unaccounted for Ebola funds. Dr. Gwenigale’s disclosure clearly confirms a report from some quarters that international NGOs have not been transparent in their dealings, especially about how they spend funds entrusted to them for their interventions in Liberia.
The two day Annual General and Scientific Meeting, which was held under the theme, “National Preparedness for Disease Outbreak,” brought together scores of highly respected medical practitioners.