Zimbabwe: Aids Council Accused of Lacking Transparency

Zimbabwe: Aids Council Accused of Lacking Transparency

Paidamoyo Chipunza,

Civil Society has criticised the National Aids Council for allegedly lacking transparency and accountability in managing the Aids Levy.

This follows reports of erratic supplies of life prolonging anti-retroviral drugs countrywide, regardless of increased Aids Levy collections.

NAC is accused of spending too much money on advocacy programmes, which in effect amount to allowances and vehicles for employees.

The civil society also questioned the logic behind spending more than US$70 000 on officials during a trip to the United States in July. Dr Magure, however, said everything done at NAC was approved by Government.

The activists included representatives from the Zimbabwe Aids Prevention and Support Organisation, Public Personalities against Aids Trust, ChildLine, PATAM, Taaf Zimbabwe, African Regional Youth Initiative and Zimbabwe HIV Advocacy Committee.

The vociferous civil society has since demanded an urgent meeting with NAC to deliberate on issues surrounding use of the alleged abuse of public funds. The levy, otherwise known as the National Aids Trust Fund, is three percent of income tax collected every month. Civil society spokesperson Mr Chamu Mashoko said: “The objective is to make the best of the little of what we are generating. At the moment there is serious abuse”.

Following dollarisation, the Aids Levy has proved to be a good source of domestic funding with NAC collecting US$5,7 million in 2009.

The collections increased to US$20,5 million in 2010 and US$26,4 million in 2011.

NAC’s breakdown for the Aids Levy reflects that 10 percent is for prevention, 50 percent treatment, 6 percent monitoring, evaluation and co-ordination while 5 percent goes to advocacy. Furthermore, 25 percent is allocated for programme support and logistics and 4 percent for capital expenditure.

“To put the statistics into perspective, an amount of more than US$1,32 million was used for advocacy purposes by NAC. By any standards, this is a significant figure given the fact that advocacy is not NAC’s strongest programme,” said Mr Tapuwa Kujinga of PATAM.

It is alleged that NAC blew nearly US$70 000 from the Aids Levy to fund seven of its delegates who attended the conference in Washington DC, United States.

“We the undersigned, members of the Zimbabwe HIV Advocacy Coalition, request that you provide us with the information on the number of NAC representatives and people who are sponsored by NAC attending the International Aids Society Conference from July 22 -27, 2012 in Washington DC.

“We are keen to know who is being sponsored from the Aids Levy, who is being sponsored by NAC’s funding partners, the perceived value to the nation from people attending and the total cost of the trip of all delegates,” the team wrote.

In response NAC said seven delegates were directly funded by it. It says Ms Beatrice Tonhodzai-Ngondo, Dr Pateson Mapanda and Dr Tapuwa Magure were responsible for networking and resource mobilisation. Mrs Catherine Murombedzi, Ms Madeline Dube and Mr Raymond Yekeye were responsible for publicity and enhancing NAC’s image. Mr Albert Manenji made a presentation on best practices of alternative funding.

It further said the council was showcasing Zimbabwe’s response through a stand, which was manned by NAC officials among other stakeholders.

“In addition to the stand, three members of the delegation made presentations during the conference,” NAC says.

Dr Magure, Mr Yekeye and Mr Manenji also made presentations at the conference.

The activists claim that NAC was over-represented as there was duplication of duties by those who attended. It is also alleged that all those who were funded from the Aids Levy flew in the business class all the way to Washington DC. Emirates business class to Washington DC costs approximately US$5 000 return while the economy class costs about US$1 800.

Further allegations are that the delegates were given US$5 000 each to cater for their accommodation, food and out of pocket allowances for the ten-day trip.

The Herald understands that some members of the NAC board are reportedly questioning the selection criteria of those who represented the organisation at the highest HIV and Aids symposium in the world claiming the trip was not sanctioned by it.

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