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John Parsons, Global Fund Inspector General, Prevails at Tribunal: Termination and Defamation Ruled Unlawful

February 03, 2016
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(WASHINGTON) – On February 3, 2016 the International Labor Organization Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT) released its ruling in favor of GAP client John Parsons, the former Inspector General (IG) at the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. After Parsons issued a series of reports documenting extensive corruption in Global Fund grants, he was abruptly terminated by the Board of the organization. In November, 2012, to prevent giving the impression that the sacking of the IG was a reaction to his reports on corruption, the Global Fund issued a press release announcing Parsons’ termination for ‘unsatisfactory performance.’ The press release went up immediately on the Global Fund’s website and all staff received a message directing them to the press release for information about Parsons’ departure.

Parsons filed suit at the ILOAT for unlawful termination and for defamation, and this week, the ILOAT released its judgment substantiating his claims on both counts.

In the US, the case is especially significant because US legislation obliges the Congress to withhold 15 percent of its annual contribution to the Global Fund unless the State Department can certify that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) operates with autonomy.

Under the US Freedom of Information Act, GAP and the BBC requested the documents surrounding the certification process at the Global Fund from the State Department. Correspondence released showed pressure exerted on Parsons in October, 2012 to certify to the US State Department that the OIG operated without interference and Parsons’ refusal to comply. In November 2012, he was summarily dismissed. The ILOAT judgment notes that the termination occurred suddenly and without warning, an extremely unusual event at an inter-governmental organization.

The Global Fund has denied that Parsons’ refusal to certify OIG independence from Global Fund management occasioned his termination, but the correspondence and the time nexus belie that claim.  Parsons’ certification was worth about $300 million in US contributions to the Global Fund each year.

John Heilprin of AP documented Parsons’ reports about the Global Fund and described the lack of accountability in grants:

"A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption."

After Parsons’ departure, the productivity of the OIG substantially diminished, and the Office ran through three IGs in as many years. The current IG was appointed just over one year ago.  His predecessor stepped down less than two years into a six-year commitment.

Beatrice Edwards, International Program Director at GAP, who worked with Parsons and Laurence Fauth, his attorney, said:

"Since November, 2012, the Inspector General has been dismissed, targeted country audits were reduced, the scope of work for the OIG was narrowed and the primary focus of OIG work was changed to risk management, assessment of” assurance providers,” and Secretariat business practices."

In contrast, Parsons work unearthed expired and counterfeit medications, ghost workers and diverted funds in areas at high risk for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

CONTACT:
Andrew Harman – GAP Communications Director
(202) 457-0034 EXT. 156
andrewh@whistleblower.org

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

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