Office of the Inspector General

Global Fund Grant in Zimbabwe: Sexual exploitation of a beneficiary by a UNDP sub-recipient staff member

19 May 2023

The OIG investigation found that a member of staff in a government hospital in Zimbabwe abused his position of power and authority to sexually exploit at least one patient. The hospital staff member, who was not a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) employee, received a salary that was funded by a Global Fund grant to the UNDP. The incident took place at a hospital managed by UNDP’s sub-recipient, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), that serves as a referral center in a rural community. Referral center patients are especially vulnerable as most of them are women experiencing their first pregnancy and include teenagers from poor communities.

The MoHCC-managed hospital administration denied knowledge of the incident to the OIG investigation team and did not report any concerns to the MoHCC, UNDP, or the Global Fund. This denial was contradicted by evidence collected by the OIG that concerning conduct had been reported to members of the hospital administration.

Engagements with UNDP's Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) as part of the investigation revealed limitations in the OAI mandate and misalignment between UNDP and the Global Fund regarding UNDP obligations as the Principal Recipient to address such allegations under the Framework Agreement between the Global Fund and UNDP. The UNDP view regarding its obligations vis-à-vis Global Fund activities in this context is also contrary to the published United Nations (UN) policies and statements regarding the expected UN agency approach and efforts to prevent and respond to credible sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) allegations.

OAI informed the OIG that it did not have the mandate to investigate credible allegations of SEA made against employees of its non-UN implementing partners (i.e., UNDP sub-recipients). When OAI receives an allegation of SEA against a UNDP sub-recipient, UNDP has advised the Global Fund that the UNDP Country Office refers such allegations to the sub-recipient for investigation and/or resolution. UNDP’s position on applicable Framework Agreement terms, and deference to sub-recipient policies and procedures in the context of such concerning allegations, is inconsistent with the Global Fund’s expectations of UNDP under the Global Fund-UNDP Framework Agreement and risks inadequate safeguards, reporting, investigation and response to serious allegations of prohibited practices, including SEA.

The consultation and coordination on audits and investigations between the Global Fund and UNDP are agreed through working arrangements between the independent oversight offices of the two organizations, and the Global Fund retains access for such purposes to books and records of non-UN sub-recipients engaged by UNDP.

In the current case, the OIG decided to open its own investigation following notification from OAI on 30 November 2021 that UNDP had exhausted all means to obtain an official response to its requests concerning investigations conducted locally. The OIG subsequently decided to further pursue its investigation once it was ascertained that these sub-recipient-led investigations omitted fundamental investigative activities.

As of February 2023, the hospital staff member who is the subject of this report remained in his staff position due to a labor court ruling ordering the MoHCC to reinstate the staff member subject to formal investigative findings under local law. The MoHCC subsequently informed the OIG in March 2023 that it was seeking to ensure that the subject would not have access to vulnerable clients at its facilities. On 14 April 2023, the subject was notified by the Office of the Provincial Medical Director that his employment contract would be terminated, effective 13 May 2023.