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Sierra Leone News: Red Cross auditors reveal corruption

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has reported that, “Red Cross has confirmed that more than $5 million USD (£3.8m) of aid money was lost to fraud and corruption during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.” The Sierra Leone Red Cross (SLRC) has neither confirmed nor refuted the report.
BBC revealed that Auditors found overpriced supplies, salaries for non-existent aid workers and fake customs bills.
The Red Cross Federation in Geneva dispersed cash donations totaling about $100 million USD to the national Red Cross societies in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the three most-affected countries.
International Auditors revealed that in Sierra Leone, Red Cross staff apparently colluded with local bank workers to skim off over $2 million USD; in Guinea, where investigations are ongoing, around $1 million USD disappeared in fake customs bills, while in Liberia $2.7 million USD disappeared in fraudulently overpriced supplies, or in salaries for non-existent aid workers.
The SLRC, Head of Communications, Abu Bakarr Tarawallie commented, “It is unlikely that this scheme would have been uncovered without the work of the IFRC internal investigation team, acting on concerns raised by a by a staff member through IFRC’s whistle-blowing scheme.”
IFRC Head of Country Office, Paul Jenkins, explained that the fraud was “a collusion between international staff and local banks…” Adding that the international staff conspired with local bank workers.
He noted, “We are extremely concerned and disappointed by the actions of a few corrupt individuals…” Notwithstanding, IFRC head said that we must not lose sight of the actions of Red Cross volunteers who were able to save thousands of lives during the Ebola outbreak.
He emphasized, “We take all cases of fraud extremely seriously and we will ensure that those found wanting would be brought to justice…”
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in Sierra Leone, Head of Outreach, Abu Bakar Turay, said, “The ACC mandate is to investigate issues of corruption. This Red Cross issue is about corruption… it is of interest to us.”
The Red Cross, Imogen Foulkes, in Geneva has expressed remorse over the losses. The organization adds that it has introduced stricter financial rules and promised to hold any Red Cross staff involved to account. Fraud involving donor money is every aid agency’s nightmare. The Red Cross is the world’s best-known humanitarian organization, and this revelation will be damaging, she adds.
OG/4/11/17
Monday November 06, 2017.

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