Missing Ebola funds – Sierra Leone health minister Vows to restore integrity

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 February 2015

health minister fofanah 2Addressing members of the country’s health sector coordinating committee yesterday Friday, 27 February, 2015, in Freetown, health and sanitation minister – Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah (Photo) said that he is determined to restore the glory and integrity of the health ministry.

This comes in the wake of a damning report by the country’s Audit Office into the mismanagement of over $18 million meant to tackle the Ebola virus, which has taken the lives of over 5,000 people, with more than 10,000 infected.

Over two hundred nurses and health workers, including 12 doctors have so far died of the virus in Sierra Leone, as the ministry of health and State House itself, becomes embroiled in another scandal involving the exporting of human bloods and tissues.

Minister Fofanah discussed the need to clean up the ministry’s payroll system, the use of donor funds – focusing on the May – October 2014 Audit Report, the performance of donor partners, the National Pharmaceutical Procurement Unit’s capability to deliver positively, NGO Mapping, transparency, accountability and probity.

He said that the government’s focus on its Agenda for Prosperity will form the basis on which his ministry will build a functionally resilient national and sub-national health system, that will deliver quality, accessible, and affordable health care services in the country.

He spoke of the ongoing measures to weed out ‘haunted ghost’ workers from the ministry, and building a well-structured human resource base, with the requisite skills and qualifications that can meet the needs of the ministry, its partners, the government, and the Sierra Leone community.

“I want to achieve a prudent use of donor resources and government funds and improve accountability,” said minister Fofanah.

He said that the transfer of management of funds to the ministry will ensure that local and international expert partnership is used in managing the fund. This mechanism will be controlled by reliable managers, with specific key functions and terms of reference, in dealing with procurement and other issues.

minister of health - FofanahTalking about donor funds, minister Fofanah said that duplication of efforts, and piece meal implementation of small scale projects by some partners encourages clandestine activities, and that the mapping of the NGO sector is important in helping the ministry achieve its objectives.

Dr. Fofanah said that all health staff at his ministry and partners must focus on the Auditor General’s report positively. “Let us don’t look at the negatives of the Audit Report, but the good that it brings to us,” said Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah.

The minister observed that eighty-percent of the findings of the Audit Report is due to the lack of adequate documentation.

He said that the accountability, transparency and probity of all regional support officers will help to ensure the effective and efficient use of ICT to ensure good record keeping and use of data.

Fofanah encouraged people to see the opportunity for value of money, guidance, protection, positive change for progress and development, which are inherent in the Audit Report.

Commenting on the required performance of the National Pharmaceutical Procurement Unit (NPPU), Fofanah stressed the need for an effective and efficient service delivery, based on sound supply chain management and the restructuring of the current technical support team.

He described the storage of medicines at the Central Medical Stores as antiquated and an eye-sore, which he said must be reconstructed to meet today’s needs as well as international standards.

connaught hospital 2015The minister said that the rewarding of outstanding performance in every sector and units to deserving staff will motivate them to do more, within the framework of accountability and the Agenda for Prosperity on building a functionally resilient health system for Sierra Leone.

He highlighted the importance of the mapping of the work of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), as well as the re-establishment of the Integrated Health Projects Administration Unit (IHPAU) in the delivery of the ministry’s post-Ebola strategy.

While minister Fofanah is doing his best to put his best foot forward in presenting a clean bill of health for his ministry, sadly, until the investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission – including parliament’s meddling into what most people in Sierra Leone regard as a criminal matter, are completed, the ministry of health and the work of minister Fofanah will continue to be covered in thick fog.

The integrity of those running the ministry, as well as managing the Ebola crisis has been seriously tarnished, especially with this week’s massive government cover-up of the criminal syndicate, involved in the illegal and inhuman exporting of human bloods and tissues.

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