The Red Cross claims that fraud committed by some of its workers and others, resulted in at least $6 million in money designated for the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, NBC reports.
The news comes in light of an internal investigation of how the organization managed over $124 million during the 2014-2016 outbreak that resulted in more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia losing their lives.
The disease initially exploded in Guinea, but soon spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Initially, international aid was slow to respond, but once the proper funding was acquired, supplies and aid workers were placed in the field.
As much as $2.13 million disappeared due to “likely collusion” between members of the Red Cross and employees at a local bank in Sierra Leone, according to investigators.
“These cases must not in any way diminish the tremendous courage and dedication of thousands of volunteers and staff during the Ebola response,” Dr. Jemilah Mahmood of the International Federation of the Red Cross Society (IFRC) said. “They played a critical and widely recognized role in containing and ending the outbreak, and preventing further spread of the Ebola virus internationally.”
The internal investigation’s findings were initially made public on Oct. 20. The IFRC said it was working with the Anti-Corruption Commission in Sierra Leone to “investigate and legally pursue any persons involved.”
“We are pursuing every possible avenue to reclaim all funds that have been misappropriated, diverted, or otherwise illegally taken. This includes working with authorities in affected countries and elsewhere as appropriate.”
Investigators in Liberia found “evidence of fraud related to inflated prices of relief items, payroll and payment of volunteer incentives.”
In Guinea, an estimated $1.17 million disappeared due to fraudulent billing practices by a customs clearance service provider, investigators say.
Two more investigations are pending.