The Red Cross reportedly lost over $5 million of aid money due to corruption and fraud within its own organization during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Auditors detected fake custom bills, salaries for non-existent workers, and overpriced supplies.
Red Cross Staff Siphons Off Ebola Funds
Own investigations carried out by the organization revealed evidence of fraud with over $2.1 million lost in Sierra Leone. A further $1 million was lost through a mixture of inflated and fake custom bills. An earlier investigation found that the prices of payrolls and relief goods were inflated to an amount of $2.6 million in Liberia.
The representatives from the organization have said that they regret the loss of the funds and intent to make the financial rules stricter and bring those responsible for the fraud to justice. Furthermore, the organization said that it was committed to reclaiming all diverted, misappropriated, or illegally taken funds.
"I feel disappointed and concerned by the reaction of a few individuals, that their actions detract from the amazing work of the Red Cross staff and volunteers during the Ebola outbreak," said Red Cross’s Paul Jenkins. "Their actions saved thousands of lives and the IFRC will continue to ensure that its funds are used for the purpose for which they are given," he added.
Ebola, which raged between 2014 and 2016, claimed at least 10,000 lives. A massive humanitarian operation, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars, was needed to bring it under control. At first, aid agencies faced a heavy struggle to raise ample funds to respond to the outbreak.
However, relief money to the tune of millions of dollars poured in after the World Health Organization raised an alarm. WHO had received over US$ 459 million in direct and in-kind donations from over 60 donors by April 22, 2016.
A large portion of the funding for Ebola-related activities came from multilateral organizations and governments. Japan, the United States of America, Ebola Multi-Partner Trust Fund, African Development Bank, and World Bank were the biggest donors. The Red Cross gave out tens of millions of dollars in cash to its affiliate organizations during the epidemic.
Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by ebolaviruses and infects humans and other primates. The disease has a high death risk and can kill between 25 and 90 percent of those infected. The disease was first identified in 1976 after two simultaneous attacks, one in a village called Yambuku near the Ebola River, taking its name from the place and one in Nzara.
Ebola occurs at irregular intervals in the tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa and the largest recorded outbreak was the epidemic that occurred in West Africa between December 2013 and January 2016.