Members of the Red Cross team working during the Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016 made off with an estimated $6 million in aid, according to The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
While other teams were busy helping save lives in West Africa at the time, others were scheming to steal from the humanitarian organization. The IFRC said that they are “outraged” by the evidence pointing to the theft, and that they have “zero tolerance for fraud,” Newsweek reports.
The Red Cross was in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where staff members assisted in caring for victims of the Ebola outbreak, helping to prevent some 10,500 cases more, the IFRC said. The fraud was publicly announced on October 20, but investigations only received global attention until recently.
In a statement, the IFRC said that they are “committed to full transparency and accountability to our partners and the communities we stand with. This fraud must not in any way diminish the tremendous courage and dedication of thousands of volunteers and staff during the Ebola response who worked tirelessly to save countless lives and support families.”
Internal investigations disclosed that a sum of at least $2.3 million could not be accounted for in Sierra Leone due to a conspiracy between former Red Cross workers and local bank employees. It is believed that the exchange rate was falsified.
In Guinea, the fraud happened through a combination of fake and exaggerated customs bills, which led to a loss of $1.7 million. There may be even more missing, as the IRFC is in the middle of two more investigations.
The organization had previously found evidence of inflation, such as ballooned costs of “relief items, payroll and payment of volunteer incentives,” which amounted to another $2.7 million gone.
The statement said, “IFRC is committed to holding all those involved in any form of fraud to account, and to reclaiming all misappropriated, diverted, or otherwise illegally taken funds.”
As a result, the organization intends to employ a “triple defense” in order to prevent similar occurrences in the future.