Through its campaign “I Speak Out Now!”, the Office of the Inspector General encourages people to speak out against fraud and abuses committed in the context of Global Fund–supported programs. To help future whistleblowers identify the different kinds of wrongdoing, on 9 December (International Anti-Corruption Day), the OIG launched an online platform with six e-lessons.
“The e-learning platform is the main tool of the first phase of the campaign,” says Thomas Fitzsimons, communications specialist at the OIG.
The Speak Out campaign includes additional activities in three pilot countries: Ukraine, Cote d’Ivoire and Malawi (see GFO article).
“The e-learning platform is designed to empower staff and grant implementers by giving them the means to recognize the early signs of fraud and corruption so that they know what to report, and when and how to report it to the OIG,” Mr Fitzsimmons said. “The aim is to enable The Global Fund to intervene earlier to prevent small-scale irregularities from escalating into big, expensive cases of corruption.”
A recent survey conducted by the OIG showed that 30% of Secretariat staff wanted to know more about how to report wrongdoing and 15% of respondents said they had thought about reporting information to the OIG but didn’t. The main target of the platform is the Secretariat and principal recipients in-country.
Six thematic areas are explored on the platform: coercion, collusion, corruption, fraud, human rights violations and procurement issues. For each of them, users are invited to choose one of the three definitions presented to test their level of knowledge. Next, the impacts of wrongdoing on Global Fund programs and on the country are listed. One of the impacts mentioned is that collusion between suppliers “reduces fair competition and drives up the prices of medicine and health products.” Another is that corruption (defined as the “abuse of power for private gains,”) “adds significant costs to the price of doing business and steals resources that could be used to build the capacities of countries.”
For each type of wrongdoing, a list of red flags is provided. For example, if a large contract is awarded to an unknown supplier, or if a supplier has the same address or phone number as a project staff, or if new equipment doesn’t work or breaks down easily – these are all things that should attract attention because they can indicate that a fraud was committed.
The platform presents several cases studies drawn from OIG archives. “The cases are relatively typical of areas of weakness that the Secretariat and implementers should look out for if they want to improve the impact of the grants,” Mr Fitzsimons says. The cases include malaria drugs sold to the black market which leads to stockouts; faulty condoms by a supplier who lied about their origin; and people who inject drugs and sex workers in detention who are denied access to TB and HIV treatment because of stigmatization.
In a video posted on YouTube entitled “Why should you speak now?”, the OIG says that to report a wrongdoing is safe and that the identity of the whistleblower is kept confidential. People can report by phone or email, by using a secure online form, or by visiting the OIG office in Geneva.
During a second phase of the campaign, in the three pilot countries, the OIG will undertake activities to reach people who do not have access to Internet. “For example, in Côte d’Ivoire, we will be discouraging people from buying drugs off the street, using radio and billboards as the primary media,” Mr Fitzsimons says.