Confidential Documents Show Tough Staff Choices At Global Fund

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Once seen as a rising star on the global public health scene, the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is in the throes of a top-down reform as it seeks to tailor its efforts to meet new realities, especially reductions in funding. While the new administration works to improve performance, an alleged confidential document obtained by Intellectual Property Watch shows the terms on which departing staff is being asked to separate from the international organisation.

Key elements of the draft separation letter [pdf] are that signers agree in effect that in return for separation pay, they will not sue the organisation nor make any public or private statements against the organisation, including to the media, and including regarding the terms of this letter. The draft separation letter is signed by Josephine M. Mbithi, head of the Human Resources Department.

It is not clear at this time how many people are leaving or what the strategy is from the new management in selecting who stays and who must go, but the key cutoff date appears to be 30 April. The letter includes terms to help people return to their countries.

Another document entitled, “Frequently Asked Questions: Finalizing recruitment of vacancies related to reorganization” [pdf] is mainly procedural information on how the confirmation process works for those receiving an offer of appointment with the organisation.

The FAQ document indicates that candidates will hear by 30 April whether they have been chosen to work at the organisation in the future. “If you do not receive a verbal communication, this will mean that you have not been selected, and you will automatically be granted a MAS – unless you indicate a preference to separate from the organization on redundancy,” it said.

In a recent interview (translated from Spanish) posted to the Global Fund website, new general manager Gabriel Jaramillo, a veteran banker originally from Colombia, said economic pressures have led donors to demand better management and greater returns on their investments. The Fund is “a financial institution” whose investments “must yield very high returns,” he said. Jaramillo said he has a one-year mandate, and that the Board will begin this month determining future governance.

He met this week with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said he has “very high expectations” for Jaramillo’s term, according to the Global Fund. The two discussed “initiatives on joint cooperation in the coming year, as well as strategy for informing and engaging all partners about common needs and goals of the Global Fund,” the Fund said in a release. No further details were provided.

Jaramillo said in the interview that the Fund is increasing staff by 40 percent in the area of program management “because we want to focus on the Fund’s main function.” Jaramillo told The Guardian recently in London that the Fund is cutting 40 percent from the bureaucracy.

“This is game-changing,” he said. “This is less Geneva and more other countries. More reality.”

The Global Fund says it has helped save millions of lives so far. Jaramillo also said the situation has changed for the three diseases it targets. When the Fund was set up 10 years ago there was a greater emergency and decisions were made hastily. Now, it is possible to make more thoughtful decisions about results from funding it receives. He also said the Fund has taken steps to address some fraud that was found in the use of its funds, including that “there is now a banker managing the Fund.” He said he will introduce “private sector practices” into the Fund.

The Fund is trying to get “China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others” to donate this year, he said.

Jaramillo said donor countries understand that programs cannot be discontinued at the national level, and that the Fund is “too important to go under.”

The funders will come, he said, but added, “However, we are aware that first we must show that we are changing and we are doing it the way we promised to donors.” Among funders he mentioned were the Gates Foundation and the governments of France, Japan and the United States.

The details of those promises may still come clear.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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