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Global Fund Says Zimbabwe Misused, Must Return US$7.3 Million

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said Zimbabwe has misused $7.3 million dollars which it provided for health projects and wants the funds, part of a $12.3 million package deposited with the Reserve Bank last year, to be returned.

A fund official said the government has promised to return the money by Thursday, one day before the Geneva-based organization's board will decide whether to give the country some or all of the $500 million in new funding it has requested.

But the New York Times newspaper reported on Monday that officials at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe have told the Global Fund that the institution does not have enough foreign currency to return the money.

The Times reported that Global Fund Inspector General John Parsons last Tuesday presented the preliminary findings of an audit to donor nations and United Nations officials. Parsons told the Times that he "had met with Reserve Bank officials to tell them, 'We need our money back.'"

He also told the Times that the organization "cannot safely leave foreign exchange in Zimbabwe," and will have to "keep it offshore and drip-feed" it into the country.

International donors such as Sweden have also complained that humanitarian funds deposited with the central bank have gone missing.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reached Global Fund Communications Director John Liden, who said that with the Round Eight awards coming up on Friday, officials of the fund remain concerned that Zimbabwean officials have not accounted for the missing money.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa denied Global Fund monies were missing.

More reports from VOA's Studio for Zimbabwe...