Ramsammy sounds warning over HIV/AIDS money By Shawnel Cudjoe
Guyana Chronicle
March 7, 2006

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HEALTH Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday warned representatives of 17 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which will be receiving grants for HIV/AIDS projects, to ensure that the monies spent are well accounted for and discrepancies avoided at all costs.

His appeal came at the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) for some $68M at the ministry in Georgetown between the Guyana HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project (GAPCP) and the NGOs for the implementation of HIV/AIDS sub-projects across Guyana.

“The government has strict accounting procedures that even we have to follow at the ministry. You receive government’s funds and you are subjected to the same thing,” Ramsammy advised.

He added: “It’s not that we are looking over your shoulders, but there is somebody who must account for that money. We are accounting for that money and you must account to us how you spend that money.”
The minister told the NGO representatives that things which were done “loosely” in the past will not be tolerated. “At some point somebody catches up with you and there are already examples of this.”
According to Ramsammy, there have been instances where people take the money for executing HIV/AIDS programmes and channel it into a completely unrelated area and even go as far as fabricating catering services and other business to get receipts.

He said the three disbursements are not guaranteed to all the organisations, but are given based on performance. “If you are not executing as your work plan shows, you are not going to get the next set of money. It is results-oriented,” he pointed out.

“I thought I’d warn you -- this is serious business; we take people’s money and we must follow the rules,” he declared.

Some of the areas that the projects will focus on are prevention of sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS, prevention of transmission of HIV from mother to child, having safe blood in the system, increasing voluntary counselling and testing in communities, and tackling stigma and discrimination.

The minister said that as the Health Ministry continues to build a comprehensive community response to the HIV/AIDS fight, in another few weeks, there would be an opportunity for another group of organisations to submit their proposals.

Ramsammy said this, though, is not the extent of the government’s response, but there is the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which funds another 20 projects.

Added to funding from the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP) and direct government support, close to US$2M in support has been provided, he said.

The Guyana Defence Force Credit Union, the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU), the Guyana Rice Producers Association and faith-based organisations were singled out for special mention, for their involvement, by the minister.

Mr Sherwood Clarke, Coordinator of the CCWU project – Lessening the Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Labour Force - said their project targets managers and supervisors of the organisations they represent to make them more aware of the HIV/AIDS disease.

To get their messages across, workshops and rallies which begin later this month, will be held. The CCWU received $2.9M to implement the 18-month project and it was the first time it submitted a proposal.

Major Patrick West of the Guyana Defence Force Credit Union, which will be implementing the Military Action and Prevention Programme (MAPP), said it targets mainly the credit union department and the medical corps of the force to strengthen their capacity in response to the national AIDS fight.

He said they were given $8.2M for the implementation of the 18-month project.

Civil Society Coordinator of GAPCP, Ms Asmita Chand, said the 17 new NGOs join a batch of 11 organisations already funded by the project, bringing the total funding to $121M. They were selected from a group of 45 organisations which applied for funding through a public call for proposals issued in September.

The programmes target orphans and vulnerable children, Amerindians, miners, at-risk youths, the armed forces, and farmers and will be implemented in all 10 administrative regions.

Areas such as the Essequibo Coast, Bartica, St Cuthbert’s Mission, Matthews Ridge, Lethem, Morawhanna, Seweyo, Coomacka and Linden will be targeted, Chand said.

Some of the organisations, such as Youth Challenge Guyana, will be implementing the `Rural Prevention Programme’; Camal International Home the `Hope for Kids Project’; Hope Foundation, the `Hinterland Outreach Project’ and Guyana Red Cross Society the `Building Capacity: Empowering Lives’ project.