Some time after Aidspan first raised its concerns about the different ways the Global Fund treats national and international grant implementers, the Secretariat of the Global Fund has replied. I don’t want to go into too much detail, so to cut a long story short the issue was that while the Global Fund allows international NGOs and agencies to report some of their overheads as “indirect costs”, national ones are expected to provide detailed reports and receipts on every single expenditure, whether it is related to programmes, procurement or management.
The Secretariat’s response suggests there won’t be much change to this policy. This is disappointing, but not just because it seems unfair that the smaller, lower capacity organisations should have a more complicated reporting burden. To me it is disappointing because it suggests that the Global Fund’s attitude to risk and to performance based funding has not changed a great deal. Risk remains, essentially, the risk that money went astray or was not all spent in the way that was planned. Having hovered around some of the discussions about the development of the Global Fund’s new model in the past year I had a small amount of hope that there would be a new approach to risk. One that considers the risk of people not getting treatment, or of people being mistreated by programmes,
I understand why the Global Fund remains jittery about financial management. But it really is too bad that the focus is still all about monitoring inputs. If the Fund was truly supportive of performance based funding it would worry less about how money is spent and what it is spent on, and spend more time monitoring the impact of its investments.
The secretariat’s response also suggests to me that there will be no move toward allowing small grass roots sub-grantees to report primarily on their results either. The risk, which I discussed in this post some time ago, is that community groups will continue to be expected to spend a lot of their time and good will bean-counting and less of it doing the work their communities need them to do.