Red Cross pilfered millions of ebola aid dollars

Almost $6 million of the Red Cross's funds for ebola relief efforts never reached their intended recipients, according to an internal investigation that found that staff had used price inflation and other fraudulent schemes to steal the funds from operations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
By Linda Mack | Nov 08, 2017
Red Cross staff stole almost $6 million from their organization's efforts against ebola, the organization acknowledged in a statement Friday. An internal investigation uncovered evidence that fraud was the cause of the disappearance of millions of Red Cross dollars in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and other locales where Red Cross staff were fighting the 2014 epidemic that killed more than 11,000 Africans.

Red Cross staff probably colluded with local bank officials to move funds out of the Red Cross's coffers, the Red Cross said in a statement. It added that it is "outraged" at the losses and would waive immunity from prosecution for any culpable staff as it is "committed to holding all those involved in any form of fraud to account, and to reclaiming all misappropriated, diverted, or otherwise illegally taken funds."

The investigation determined that more than $2.1 million disappeared from Red Cross efforts in Sierra Leone and that Guinea efforts lost $1 million for fake and inflated customs bills. This follows an earlier investigation's discovery that inflation of payrolls and the prices of relief goods bled Liberia's relief operations of around $2.6 million.

The Red Cross gave out tens of millions of dollars in cash to affiliate organizations on the ground during the outbreak, which ran from March 2014 until early 2016. These large sums of money moving through largely untested channels created opportunities for fraud, according to sources

Sources added that corruption is a common problem in the wake of humanitarian disasters. Unscrupulous officials or aid workers occasionally find ways to dip into relief funds or to steal supplies and sell them at marked-up prices on the black market. Nigeria's president recently sacked a civil servant on charges that he had inflated the value of humanitarian aid programs.



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