Ebola Fund Watch Report Calls for a Closer Look at Aid Transparency
Given the growing concern around the efficiency to which funds by the international, private, public and donor communities is being tracked and audited, BudgIT Nigeria in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) has launched The Ebola Fund Watch – Tracking Funds For Ebola Crisis in West Africa Regional report with the hope of arousing discussions around aid transparency.
The regional report which focused on core issues around the management of funds for Ebola victim support and disease control in West Africa advocates for a stronger health system. It also compels essential support from the government for the needs of Ebola survivors in the affected countries.
According to the Ebola Fund Watch report, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) infected over 24,700 and killed over 11,800 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria; highlighting the weakness of health systems in African countries as well as how weak political institution and cultural practices can escalate health crisis.
Although the World Health Organisation declared the Ebola Virus Disease an outbreak on 23 March 2014, it was not until 8 August, that it was declared a public health emergency of international concern.
As a result of this impact, the estimated requirements for an adequate response plan for the Ebola Virus Outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria shows the sub-region requires about $2.27 billion to contain and manage the virus.
The Ebola Fund Watch
The Ebola Fund Watch – Tracking Funds For Ebola Crisis in West Africa Regional Report echoes the need for West Africa and its constituent countries to prioritise public health management as a critical human safety and security issue.
Operations Lead at BudgIT, Stanley Vito Achonu told Rural Reporters that while the UN was keeping track of the donations that were coming in, “we (BudgIT) mostly relied on audit report and independent report to collate the expenditure report.”
He explained that for instance, “in Sierra Leone, there was a comprehensive auditing report and there was also a response from the office of the presidency of Liberia to the audit report that was submitted. There was also an investigative report. By the time you add all of these reports and put it together, there is always a corresponding trend.”
In producing the report, BudgIT worked with partners in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to conduct research, which curates and tracks the use of funds for EVD management across the sub-region.
Project Coordinator at Budgit, Abiola Afolabi, also explained that the report took a “ground-truthing approach”, a diverse survey plan, which includes interviews with various stakeholders- caregivers, journalists, survivors, victims’ dependants, civil servants and others.
Fisayo Soyombo, the Editor of The Cable Newspapers and one of the journalist whose work was featured on the report shared his experience in Liberia, one of the most affected countries by the Ebola virus. He also gave an insight into the plight of the survivors of the Ebola virus.
According to him, once a person has been identified with the Ebola virus, all his belongings are destroyed for fear of spreading the disease. However, after recovering, most of the survivors do not get the necessary financial aid (from the Ebola fund) as expected and many of them face stigmatisation in their communities.
“What is more shocking is that they (people who in charge of the funds) have been able to get away with it,” he said.
Corroborating Fisayo’s submission, BudgIT’s Operations Lead, Stanley Achonu in his address cited an instance of when he tracked the information on the importation of emergency vehicles and ambulances to aid Ebola victims in Liberia.
“They were supposed to purchase twenty ambulances to be imported from Dubai to Freetown but about 12 to 16 vehicles were imported and there was a balance that was not imported. Yet, all necessary papers were signed that the twenty ambulances was delivered.”
Stanley explained that the importation of these ambulances was done at a time when Ebola was contained in Liberia.
“I went there to investigate and the person I interviewed was very obviously very aggressive in his response. His tone was harsh and when I asked him for the balance of the ambulances, he said ‘If I want he can still go and bring the remaining ambulance’,” Stanley said.
What’s Next After the Launch?
BudgIT pledged to send aggregate feedback of the report to some relevant government institutions, to guide policy reforms around health and epidemic issues in the future. The organisation also hopes to aggregate feedback on the reports and send it to relevant government institutions, to guide policy reforms around health and epidemic issues.
Nevertheless, participants at the launch also give suggestions on the way forward, with most of them stating that the report should serve as a mitigation to stop corruption and mismanagement of aids/relief fund.
One of the participants, Dr Lawal Bakare, the co-founder of Health by design and Founder of Ebola Alert, said the report should be sent to relevant stakeholders and authority to prevent development fund mismanagement in the future.
Also, Program Coordinator, Economic Governance at OSIWA, Joseph Amenaghawon, called for more sensitivity to issues of public health. He also urged the media and government to dissect further on the submission of the Ebola funds to ensure accountability in the future.
For ’Fisayo Soyombo, he hopes that “the launch of this report will revive the conversation around the mismanagement of Ebola fund and hopefully, the conversation can graduate to the level of persecution of the offenders of those who are involved in mismanaging the funds.”
Click here to download The Ebola Fund Watch Report