On Friday, Botswana’s National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) revealed that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria had rejected its most recent funding proposal. This untimely announcement comes on the eve of World AIDS Day, an occasion that is supposed to provide all people with an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and stress vigilance in the fight against AIDS.
According to its website, the Global Fund is “a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector, and affected communities.” Since its inception in January 2002, the Global Fund has allocated US$ 9.9 billion (roughly P60 billion) to 136 countries to help eradicate the three diseases.
During NACA’s November 30th press conference, Agency representatives reported that its request for $US 36.9 million (P220 million) was denied on the grounds that the proposal lacked a clear description of how its strategies would be implemented. In particular, the Global Fund’s independent Technical Review Panel expressed concern that Botswana’s proposal only detailed how funding would be used through the first year of the five year term.
Furthermore, the Panel took issue with the fact that there were no concrete targets or assessment plans to evaluate, in the end, whether or not any targets were met.
Despite this setback, NACA’s Program Planning Manager, Monica Tselayakgosi, emphasized that the Global Fund’s rejection was based solely on the aforementioned technical issues with the proposal. Consequently, Tselayakgosi reported that NACA was encouraged to submit another funding request at the start of the next round in March 2008. And, as long as the problems were addressed in the new request, the Global Fund would gladly consider funding HIV/AIDS programs in Botswana.
In this sense, the Global Fund found that Botswana was essentially worthy of funding; however, until NACA can demonstrate that the funding will be effectively used and properly accounted for, the Global Fund will not further allocate money to Botswana.
While ultimately the Global Fund’s rejection may seem harsh, its concerns are legitimate, given the problems that it has had with NACA in the past. As recently as June 2006, the Global Fund terminated its last grant, one year into the two-year program, citing NACA’s failure to justify its expenditures and adequately report its activities. Consequently, the Global Fund withheld from NACA the second half of its original allocation of US$ 18.5 million (P111 million).
Regarding the 2006 debacle, Tselayakgosi attributed the accounting problems to a lack of capacity among NACA’s implementing partners (i.e. health services, NGOs, community based organizations). Specifically, she explained that there was a shortage of Human Resource expertise within the institutions who received funding from NACA. Therefore, those institutions were unable to provide NACA with accounting information that satisfied the Global Fund’s expectations.
Regrettably, NACA planned its upcoming programs assuming that money from the Global Fund grant would be in place. As in 2006, the Agency is left trying to fill a massive hole in its budget. Even assuming that the Global Fund accepts a revised proposal submitted in March next year, that still leaves at least four months during which NACA will struggle to continue funding its HIV/AIDS programs. Tselayakgosi regretted that the budget shortfall “will impact the delivery of services, capacity building, and institutional improvements.”
As Botswana continues to face the severe effects of HIV and AIDS, it becomes all the more imperative that NACA takes the necessary steps to acquire, and keep secure, grants from the Global Fund. Until more funding is made available, NACA will continue to have problems fulfilling its presidential mandate to support programs that improve the lives of those afflicted by HIV and AIDS.