Office of the Inspector General

Letter from the Executive Director: Misconduct Affecting Global Fund Grants in Ghana

19 March 2021

The Global Fund has zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse – and for coercive, collusive or corrupt behavior of any kind. Sexual exploitation and abuse is an appalling violation of a person’s rights and completely contrary to the Global Fund’s values and mission. That sexual exploitation and abuse has occurred in a sub-sub-recipient of a Global Fund grant shows that our extended partnership is not immune to such abhorrent behaviors, and reinforces my determination to work harder to prevent, detect and respond to such abuses of power.

Our first and ongoing concern is for the survivors of the abuses. As soon as Global Fund staff heard such abuses might be happening, this was reported to the Office of the Inspector General. And as soon as survivors were identified, we immediately provided them with assistance, notably gender-based violence counseling, legal services and police protection from potential acts of retaliation for coming forward. At all stages of the investigation, the Global Fund was proactive in mitigating the risk of further abuses, while ensuring the continuity of programs for people in need.

While I am deeply disturbed by this case, as we all are, I welcome the publication of these findings and the lessons they bring. The investigation reached a definitive conclusion despite the considerable challenges in locating the survivors and gathering evidence. Throughout the process, the survivors’ interests were kept paramount, and preventative action was taken to ensure the continuation of critical program activities during the investigation while also preventing further abuse. The focus on survivor protection, the comprehensive due process, and the collaboration with national authorities, are key components of the robust approach to such incidents that we intend to build on and reinforce.

The Global Fund has been recognized for the diligence with which we act on allegations of misconduct affecting the programs we support and for the way we transparently hold ourselves to account to improve as we learn from investigations. With this case, and the abhorrent behavior it exposes, we continue to uphold those fundamental principles.

We are not shy about tackling the difficult questions raised by this report. No one is under the impression that these abuses don’t exist in communities across the world, including in those we support, and we are acutely aware of the vulnerability of the populations we serve. It is our responsibility to enforce our policies that prohibit abuses of any kind, including sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment. We must work as a partnership to expand our actions to prioritize and tackle these issues at all levels.

At the Safeguarding Summit in London in October 2018, the Global Fund committed to further strengthen and enforce our ethical standards, particularly relating to the Protection from Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (PSEAH). In 2019, the Global Fund rolled out a more explicit and specific code of conduct for Global Fund staff [ download in English ] and related trainings, and we have since updated all codes of conduct for Country Coordinating Mechanisms, Global Fund governance officials [ download in English | Français ] , suppliers [ download in English | Español | Français | Русский ] and recipients [ download in English | Español | Français | Русский ] of Global Fund grants. We promote and protect human rights in all aspects of our work and encourage all partners, from implementers to program participants, to report any abuse, including through the existing I Speak Out Now! hotline led by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). To ensure effective oversight we established a Management Executive Committee-level panel on Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Harassment, chaired by the Chief of Staff, as well as a working-level technical group chaired by the Ethics Office.

Beyond the findings relating to these specific abuses, this report challenges us to accelerate the approach the Secretariat uses to manage the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. We welcome the OIG’s conclusion that the then existing prohibitions against coercive, collusive and corrupt behavior provided a sound and effective basis for proceeding with the investigation. Yet we accept that incorporating more explicit prohibitions on sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment in our codes of conducts and thus our grant agreements would facilitate communication and engagement on these issues and thus contribute to our efforts on prevention and early detection. We have therefore done this.

In 2021, under the oversight of our panel on Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Harassment, and led by the Ethics Office, we will take further action to institutionalize a survivor- and victim-centered approach to prevent, detect and respond to such abuses, including:

  • Rolling out training for staff, governance officials and other relevant stakeholders. Among other things, this will seek to build greater awareness of indicators of sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment and to set expectations on actions to be taken when it appears that such abuses might be occurring;
  • Completing a comprehensive survivor- and victim-centered framework on sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment that will further clarify roles and responsibilities across the organization and stakeholders, including in relation to reporting channels, case management, survivor support, investigations and protection from retaliation;
  • Intensifying and expanding communication and awareness-raising across the partnership;
  • Conducting risk-based assessments of grant recipients to identify the areas of highest risk for such abuses.

To ensure effective coordination with partners and rapid adoption of best practices we will continue to be an active participant in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Technical Experts Group on Protection from Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment with international partners.

I want to reiterate that the Global Fund requires its staff and partners worldwide to adhere to the highest ethical standards in the conduct of Global Fund-supported activities and that the Global Fund has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. We hope this report will dissuade similar egregious conduct and encourage survivors to trust our commitment to protect those who speak out, and to sensitively and thoroughly investigate allegations. This investigation sends a strong and unequivocal signal that we are, from our Board to our staff to sub-sub-recipients of our grants, united in our commitment to prevent, detect and respond to instances of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment.