CCM concerned with Global Fund report into misappropriated funds

The Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) has expressed concern over the way the Global Fund handled its investigation into alleged misappropriation of donor funds at Chinansi Foundation without its involvement.

CCM is national committee that submits funding applications to the Global Fund and oversees grants on behalf of the country. It is a key element of the Global Fund partnership.

Acting on anonymous letter from some disgruntled staff of Chinansi Foundation alleging the misappropriation of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) Project, the Office of the Inspector General of the Global Fund instituted the investigations that took them to Malawi.

Chinansi is a fast-growing Malawian humanitarian and development oriented organization working in 12 districts – Balaka, Machinga, Chikwawa, Zomba, Phalombe, Ntcheu, Mzimba, Salima, Ntcheu, Mchinji, and Thyolo.

Chinansi works towards alleviating human sufferings and social in justices of the ordinary and vulnerable people and provide them with renewed hope through implementation of life touching interventions (systems strengthening) that help them achieve better and sustainable life.

Simplex Chithyola Banda face accusations

The organization focuses on six thematic areas of health and HIV Management, livelihood and food security, education, child rights and youth development and human rights and governance.

However, it was alleged that the former Executive Director of Chinansi Foundation, Simplex Chithyola Banda, had misappropriated programme funds, resulting in delayed program activities and salary arrears.

As a result, the Global Fund asked the Local Fund Agent (LFA) to perform a review, however the Executive Director denied the LFA access to critical books and records.

The report, which Nyasa Times has seen, states that desk research identified that the Chinansi Foundation was under-performing programmatically and significantly overspending on salaries.

“While the alleged funds at risk were relatively low (under US$100,000), Chinansi Foundation stood to receive up to US$700,000 by the end of 2020. As the Foundation was implementing activities to support adolescent girls and young women, a Global Fund Strategic Priority, the involvement of the OIG [Office of the Inspector General] was therefore reconsidered, and an investigation opened,” reads part of the report.

On 18th January 2021, the OIG sent Chinansi a preliminary report seeking Chinansi comments on the allegations.

In his responses, Chithyola Banda, who is currently serving as Malawi Congress Party (MCP) member of Parliament for Kasungu South Constituency, defended, saying all the activities under the project were implemented as evidenced by Plan International Malawi.

Apparently, Chinansi Foundation was implementing the project under the supervision of Plan International Malawi through which Global Fund was financing the project.

“OIG should appreciate the fact that Chinansi implemented the project activities as evidenced by PIM, project beneficiaries and the available documents of expenditure and that it is our conceded view that the OIG will accept the Chinansi Foundation’s list of expenditure of US70,054 which is almost the same amount alleged to be misappropriated,” said Chithyola Banda.

He observed that the rejected expenditure of MWK 51,274,839 (USD70,054) is actually the same amount alleged to have been misused.

“These are funds that were used for project implementation. The MWK15, 800, 390 (USD21, 706 is the same amount which was used to pay arrears for staff and also review meetings that were both confirmed by staff and participants. The other amounts were for the MRA payments, which were paid through cash at the counter at Balaka Malawi Revenue Authority offices,” explained Banda in his response to Global Fund.

CCM vice chairperson Maziko Matemba said he had seen the report from the Global Fund alleging abuse of the resources at Chinansi Foundation.

However, Matemba pointed out that some processes were ignored when the investigation was conducted.

He wondered why the Global Fund did not pin down the Principal Recipient, which was Action Aid Malawi then, and sub recipient Plan International Malawi, which were overseeing the implementation of local interventions.

A senior official at the Fiscal Unit of the Malawi Police Service confirmed to have worked with the Global Fund in investigating the alleged abuse of resources.

However, the officer, who opted for anonymity, said they did not find any evidence to support the allegation.

“So, this report has come as surprise to us. We don’t have any file in relation to abuse of donor resources at Chinansi Foundation,” he said in a brief interview on Sunday.

Chithyola Banda told local media that the report was strategically timed by his political opponents.

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