As if the Ebola crisis in West Africa wasn’t tragic enough, investigators at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) now say at least USD$6 million was lost to fraud and corruption during an emergency that lasted from 2014 through 2016.
As much as $2.1 million disappeared as the result of “likely collusion” between Red Cross staff and employees at a bank in Sierra Leone, the IFRC confirmed to the Associated Press on Saturday. In Liberia, IFRC investigators found an estimated $2.7 million lost to inflated prices, payroll and volunteer incentives.
The IFRC said it was outraged by evidence of fraud in a statement released two weeks ago. That statement described the Liberia and Sierra Leone cases, as well as $1.2 million lost to inflated or fake billing in Guinea, and two additional fraud investigations that are ongoing.
“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,” the Geneva-based organization said. It is working in Liberia and Sierra Leone with their respective Anti-Corruption Commissions, and in Guinea with “authorities in the country and elsewhere.”
The West Africa outbreak was, by a wide margin, the most severe since Ebola virus disease was discovered in 1976. In Guinea, two-thirds of the 3,811 cases were fatal; in Liberia, among 10,675 cases reported, 45 percent of its victims died. Sierra Leone saw more cases, with 14,124 reported, but a lower fatality rate of 28 percent.