- Published on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 05:00
- Written by FINNIGAN WA SIMBEYE
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FUNDING to two projects being implemented by World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) in Tanzania has been suspended by the Royal Norwegian government pending investigations into embezzlement.
Norwegian Embassy Advisor, Mr Simon Milledge told the 'Daily News' on Tuesday that reports of fund mismanagement were revealed by the WWF last December. At the centre of the matter are two projects, one of which is Strengthening Capacity of Environmental civil society Organizations, worth over 25 million Norwegian Kroners (approx. 7bn/-) signed in April 2008.
The second project to support implementation of REDD project (enhancing Tanzanian Capacity to Deliver short and Long term data on Forest Carbon stocks ), worth NOK 13.9 million (over 3.89bn/-) was signed by WWF Tanzania in December 2010.
"The Embassy was informed of the suspected financial mismanagement last year and we intend to conduct an investigation. We have suspended all further disbursements to the two projects," Mr Milledge pointed out.
He said over NOK 19.8 million (over 5.46bn/-) has already been spent in the first project while over NOK 2.77 million (approx. 764.4m/-) has been disbursed in the second project. Mr Milledge said the Norwegian government is waiting for an audit report from Ernst & Young to establish the magnitude of the embezzlement but stressed that all misappropriated funds would have to be paid back.
"The embassy is waiting for the final report before making any further decisions in line with our policy of zero tolerance to corruption," he pointed out. WWF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Programme Office (ESARPO) Director of Communications and Branding, Mr Kimunya Mugo Munya said the conservation group estimates that some 85,000 US dollars (approx. 135.4m/-) has been misappropriated.
Mr Mugo said WWF International has invested its own funds to carry out further forensic investigations and deploy a temporary team to ensure most critical work is not affected by suspension of funding. "Two programmes have been suspended, we have terminated the employment of eight staff members and one has resigned after evidence of fraud was corroborated. In addition, WWF International and the WWF-Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Programme Office have also parted ways with 2 members of senior management in WWF-Tanzania," Mr Mugo noted.
He said so far, there was no evidence of embezzlement in respect of either of the two regional officials at WWF Tanzania, but preliminary investigations show that specific directions for tightened financial expenditure and procedures had not been appropriately implemented.