The Red Cross said $6 million in funds for the West African Ebola epidemic were stolen in multiple fraud cases.
In a statement, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said an investigation found evidence of fraud in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — the three countries mainly affected by the epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people.
“IFRC has zero tolerance for fraud and is committed to full transparency and accountability to our partners and the communities we stand with,” the organization said in a statement. “This fraud must not in any way diminish the tremendous courage and dedication of thousands of volunteers and staff during the Ebola response who worked tirelessly to save countless lives and support families.”
The IFRC investigation was prompted by a request made by a global anticorruption coalition that all organizations involved in the Ebola response publish audit reports of their operations. According to the IFRC, the coalition, Transparency International, had warned groups that an influx of funds into West Africa during the epidemic “would mean that response efforts were especially vulnerable to fraud and corruption.”
“Despite the difficult circumstances that may be uncovered, IFRC will not waiver from pursuing and continuing to seek out and end fraud or corruption within Ebola operations and around the world, and will continue to support National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to respond in complex humanitarian settings,” the IFRC said.
According to the statement, IFRC investigations have uncovered several scams, including:
- likely collusion between former IFRC staff and employees of a Sierra Leone bank, leading to a potential loss of $2.13 million;
- a billing scam by a customs clearance service provider in Guinea, with at least $1.17 million in estimated losses; and
- evidence of an estimated $2.7 million in losses related to inflated prices of relief items, payroll and payment of volunteer incentives.
The IFRC said it is pursuing legal action in each of the fraud cases and is prepared to waive any legal immunities and privileges for its staff. It said a 2016 investigation into procurement noncompliance in Sierra Leone led to the termination of the contract in question.
In response, the IFRC said it has strengthened its fraud protection, including instituting cash-spending limits in high-risk settings.
IFRC. IFRC statement on fraud in Ebola operations. 2017. http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/ifrc-statement-fraud-ebola-operations/. Accessed November 6, 2017.