Philanthropist Bill Gates has said incidents of corruption in the health sector are “worrying” and may discourage donors.
He said he is always worried when such incidents are reported, because even small amounts of money misused can dent donors’ confidence.
Gates was reacting to a question on the 2016 health scandal, where Kenya’s Health ministry could not account for Sh5 billion, which included donor funds. None of the foundation’s money was involved.
He spoke in a teleconference with the Star and a few selected African media, before he released his annual letter this week. “Every time those stories get back to the donors, there is a huge reduction and a lack of willingness to provide the aid. And so that negative effect, even if it is a small percentage that has been stolen, is very limiting,” he said.
Last year, the US Embassy in Nairobi withdrew Sh2 billion funding, following reports of cash diversion at the Health ministry.
Institutions affiliated to the ministry have also been accused of misusing money. In 2012, the National Hospital Insurance Fund managers were accused of planning to defraud the public of Sh96 million through an illegal tender for civil servants’ medical scheme, given to Clinix Healthcare Ltd. They have since been cleared.
In 2015, the US Centres for Disease Control accused the Kenya Medical Research Institute of misusing $90 million of CDC’s grant on unnecessary travel and other inflated expenditures.
Gates said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has adopted several strategies to minimise the amount of money misspent across the world.
The Foundation is the biggest private financier for health programmes in Africa, ranging from HIV-Aids drugs, to research and vaccines.
“In some cases, like if you take vaccines, we’re able to send them into the country as a commodity, and there is no black market for those vaccines. So in that case, there isn’t much incentive to divert them and we’re able to track the shipments,” he said. However, core HIV treatment programmes were not affected.
Gates said technology is helping to create transparency in health spending. “It’s a lot easier to track the activities and, of course, with digital techniques now where we can see where payments are being made, the GPS location, where we can ask people to take photos and gather other evidence,” he said. The Foundation works closely with governments, academia, the private sector and civil society in Africa.
Bill Gates told the Star one of the biggest achievements at the Foundation is reduced child deaths.