In response to the $5 million, designated for the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak response, lost due to fraud and corruption, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) expressed their outrage and apologies in a recent statement:

Image/QuinceMedia via pixabay
Image/QuinceMedia via pixabay

IFRC has zero tolerance for fraud and is committed to full transparency and accountability to our partners and the communities we stand with. This fraud must not in any way diminish the tremendous courage and dedication of thousands of volunteers and staff during the Ebola response who worked tirelessly to save countless lives and support families.

Red Cross volunteers played a critical role in ending the West Africa Ebola outbreak. Teams of volunteers provided treatment and care and took responsibility for burying the disease’s victims, preventing as many as 10,500 additional cases.

The West African Ebola operations were among the most complex in recent humanitarian history. In response to the deadly outbreak, IFRC and other humanitarian organizations rapidly established and expanded offices, deployed staff, and procured significant stockpiles of medical and operational supplies.

Transparency International has since requested that humanitarian organizations publish audit reports of Ebola operations following its warning that the influx of funds into the region would mean that response efforts were especially vulnerable to fraud and corruption. As part of IFRC’s commitment to transparency and accountability best practice, IFRC has complied with this request.

IFRC investigations uncovered:

  • Likely collusion between former IFRC staff and employees of a bank in Sierra Leone that led to a potential financial loss of 2.13 million Swiss francs.
  • Over- and fake billing by a customs clearance service provider in Guinea which led to an estimated loss of 1.17 million Swiss francs. Two additional investigations into further fraud allegations are currently underway.
  • These cases follow earlier reported investigations in Liberia that uncovered evidence of fraud related to inflated prices of relief items, payroll and payment of volunteer incentives, leading to an estimated 2.7 million Swiss francs loss, as well as a 2016 investigation into procurement non-compliance in Sierra Leone.

IFRC 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.

  • In Sierra Leone, IFRC is working with the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate and legally pursue any persons involved in the likely collusion.
  • In Guinea, IFRC is working with authorities in the country and elsewhere to pursue the most effective legal course of action.
  • In Liberia, IFRC is working with the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate and legally pursue any persons involved.

In all cases, IFRC is prepared to waive all legal immunities and privileges to ensure any staff involved are held to account.

With regards to the 2015 investigation of procurement non-compliance in Sierra Leone, IFRC immediately requested the termination of the contract in question and oversaw a new procurement process with additional compliance oversight.

These cases were uncovered as a result of IFRC’s proactive approach to seeking out and ending any fraud, corruption or negligence within our humanitarian operations, no matter where they may occur. Since 2014, IFRC has introduced a raft of reforms to root out and end any instances of fraud and corruption and enhance a culture of transparency and risk management within IFRC operations.

Following the above investigations, IFRC has also put in place a strengthened ‘triple defence’ prevention framework to protect against fraud and corruption in high-risk operations.

This framework establishes new checking and enforcement measures at each line of fraud prevention defence. These new measures include cash spending limits in high-risk settings, early deployment of trained auditors as part of the first wave of emergency operations set up, mandatory fraud prevention training for staff being deployed, the creation of an Audit and Risk Commission of the IFRC Governing Board, and the establishment of a dedicated and independent internal investigation function.

More information about IFRC’s ‘triple defence’ framework against fraud and corruption is available here.

Despite the difficult circumstances that may be uncovered, IFRC will not waiver from pursuing and continuing to seek out and end fraud or corruption within Ebola operations and around the world, and will continue to support National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to respond in complex humanitarian settings.