September 6, 2010; Source: AFP |Investigators looking into the management of Global Fund Against AIDS money given to the west African nation of Mali say some $380,000, and perhaps more, has been embezzled by officials working for the country’s health ministry.

The unaccounted for funds are just a tiny portion of the more than $76 million disbursed to Mali from the Global Fund, which was established by the United Nations in 2002, and which depends largely on donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mali’s prosecutor for financial matters, Sombe Thera, told the AFP news service, “Initially these malpractices amount to several hundreds of millions of Central African Francs. But investigators have revealed them to be much greater.” Investigators are poring over 55,000 documents and so far the embezzlement seems to be traced to the use of forged checks. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a UN diplomat told AFP that “several billions of CFA francs”—equal to millions of U.S. dollars— “had not been spent to treat people.” Last year, the Global Fund, which underwrites efforts to combat AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries, suspended aid to Zambia because of corruption involving that country’s health ministry.—Bruce Trachtenberg