Parly grants Global Fund tax immunity

HARARE - Paliament has granted the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) immunity from taxation, penalties and fines, and would be protected against any freeze or seizure of its resources in Zimbabwe.

The Senate unanimously ratified the international treaty on December 21, which had already been inked by President Robert Mugabe in May 2015, but was not binding until it had been approved by Parliament.

The agreement between the government and the Switzerland-based charity Global Fund relating to Privileges and Immunities was first published in the Government Gazette on June 12 last year, in a general notice 183 of 2015.

“Now therefore, in terms of Section 327 (3) of the Constitution, this House resolves that the aforesaid agreement be and is hereby approved,” Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said after tabling the motion in the Upper House last week.

Chinamasa said the Global Fund has been a partner to Zimbabwe since 2002 and has approved grants amounting to approximately $1,57 billion towards the fight against HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in Zimbabwe. 

Deaths from Aids-related illnesses continue to drop, falling from 61 000 in 2013 to 31 000 in 2015.

The number of children orphaned due to Aids also fell from 810 000 to 524 000 over the same period.

“Madam President, honourable members, the Global Fund supports the health sector in Zimbabwe through strengthening of health systems and fighting HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria,” the Finance minister said.

He added that Article 8 (1) of the agreement provides that the accord shall be open for signature, ratification, acceptance or approval by Zimbabwe and even non-board members of the Global Fund.

“It also creates an obligation to refrain in good faith, from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the Treaty,” Chinamasa said.

“In this regard Madam President, the granting of privileges and immunities, will help protect the Fund and its resources by: protecting resources which are dedicated to health against taxation, any freeze or seizure;  acknowledging the neutrality of the Global Fund as a multi-stakeholder organisation dedicated to achieving the (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals; enhancing efforts to mobilise more resources to fight the three diseases that I have just mentioned, and; protecting the Global Fund from law suits in our country, which can endanger the resources which are dedicated to health.”

Chinamasa said the support from the Global Fund is complementing government’s efforts towards financing of the health sector as enshrined in the ZimAsset economic blueprint.

“Furthermore, the support seeks to eradicate poverty, provide basic social services as well as transform the livelihoods of our population,” he said.

Gwanda Senator Bheki Sibanda said an organisation that invests over $1,5 billion in any other organisation or in a State, “I think it is worth acknowledging as a positive contributor to the health sector of this country.”

The Global Fund mobilises and invests nearly $4 billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in more than 100 countries.

Zimbabwe has the fifth highest HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, at 14,7 percent.

“I therefore feel that the immunities that we are covering the Global Fund with are a necessity,” Senator Sibanda said.

Manicaland Senator Anthony Chimhini was concerned that immunities must not be used to shield individuals from being held to account for corruption offences.

“What are the possible threats that have necessitated the privileges and immunities?  Is it a question that the government could virement (transferring items from one financial account to another) the money?

“There must have been a very good reason, if the minister could explain what necessitated the privileges and immunities,” Chimhini said.

In July 2009, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) diverted more than $7 million of Global Fund money.

The RBZ eventually returned the money, earmarked for scaling up the national (antiretroviral) ARV programme. Global Fund grants are now channelled through the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Zanu PF Rushinga senator Damian Mumvuri said if it was not for the existence of the Global Fund, the country’s health sector could have collapsed, but also raised concern that immunities appear to render the Global Fund effectively above and beyond the reach of the law.

“As has been asked by honourable ...Chimhini, what has arisen to talk about these privileges and immunities?  Are these privileges and immunities going to be for the staff or for the other recipients or any other persons?

“With those words, I thank you because I now appreciate that they are doing a good job. It is visible in every district. There is no need to delay in approving the minister’s motion,” Mumvuri said.

Chinamasa said the Global Fund employees will also enjoy immunities.

“Yes they do, under article 4 of the agreement and these immunities are almost similar to those enjoyed by other international organisations like UN agencies,” Chinamasa said.

Critics argue immunities can be a licence to corruption, shielding organisations and individuals from responsibility and accountability.

“Madam President, I therefore commend the agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and malaria for the approval of this august House,” Chinamasa said.

Comments (1)

well no pilfering this fund guys, but of course zpf can always bend the rules when they feel like

used condom - 28 December 2016

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