National AIDS Council spends millions on ‘luxuries’
By Lance Guma
20 August 2009
Thousands of people affected by HIV and AIDS are dying in the country while the National Aids Council of Zimbabwe abuses funds collected under the national aids levy. Surprisingly it took the state owned Herald newspaper, notorious for pro-government articles, to reveal that out of US$1,7 million collected in AIDS levies since February this year only US$20 000 was spent by the council in buying critical Anti Retroviral (ARV) drugs. The rest was spent on ‘luxuries’ for staff working for the council, including trips to foreign countries, luxury cars, generous salaries and other mysterious administration costs.
Under government’s own policy the National Aids Council should use 50 percent of the levies collected to buy ARV’s. But the Herald reports that the figures it obtained from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority show that only a shocking US$20 000 had been spent. Every Zimbabwean worker pays an AIDS levy which is deducted from their salaries the same way income tax is deducted. The revenue authority then hands over the money to the AIDS council to facilitate its work. Critics say the council spends too much money on workshops instead of drugs to help those suffering from the disease.
A Ministry of Health and Child Welfare official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that board and executive meetings were being held in expensive hotels when the council had offices large enough to accommodate such activities. Commenting on the use of the money she said ‘it appeared as if the bulk of the money is going to salaries, sponsored trips, cars and other perks for administrative staff who are running different programmes under NAC’.
Journalist Denford Magora blamed ZANU PF loyalists working in the council, saying their culture of corruption was still evident for all to see. He said the story exposed ‘the greed and corruption that has become the mainstay of ZANU PF in power. Even after the expose, you can be rest assured that NOTHING will be done about the National AIDS Council. No one will be fired. The Board will remain in place. This is the reason I like the Chinese system. These Shylocks would all have been stood up against a wall and shot at dawn like the traitors that they are. But in Zimbabwe, they will not even get a slap on the wrist,’ Magora wrote.
Two weeks ago the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria granted Zimbabwe US$37,9 million, after getting assurances from the unity government it would not be misused. Previously Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono diverted US$7,3m worth of funds from the organization to use in keeping ZANU PF afloat. The same corrupt National Aids Council was also the organization tasked with administering the fund. The United Nations Development Programme in Zimbabwe will now be managing the money from the Global Fund instead.
Meanwhile the Youth Forum accused the Herald newspaper of masquerading as a ‘public eye on issues of transparency and accountability’ after it’s report on the AIDS scam. The forum accused the paper of sweeping ‘under the carpet many such tendencies carried out by their bosses. It boggles the mind as to why the paper is mum on multiple farm ownership, purchase of luxurious vehicles, homes and other properties by senior government officials using tax payer’s money, let alone the Chiadzwa fiasco?’