Dr Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Source: LinkedIn - Photo: 2024

New Head of African Disease Control Center Linked to Corruption Probe

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 12 May 2024 (IDN) — Trouble is brewing at the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Auditors of the African Union say the new Director General of Africa’s CDC failed to follow procurement rules, possibly creating an “avenue for fraud.”

Dr Jean Kaseya is now under a cloud over his leadership style after barely a year in office.

Kaseye, an epidemiologist and public health physician from the Democratic Republic of Congo, rose to prominence during the high-water mark of the COVID-19 epidemic when the CDC coordinated a continent-wide response to the disease and called out harmful practices such as donations of expiring vaccines.

However, problems have been cited in a recent audit of Kaseye’s performance. They include a failure to monitor gender equity and regional diversity.

When Kaseya took over a year ago, men accounted for 70% of the staff and more than 90% of senior management. Recent hiring by Kaseya didn’t always remedy these imbalances nor focus on merit.

Additionally, some 81% of the staff were English-speaking on a continent with a wide range of language diversity—this includes 39% of countries officially speaking French. And more than half of the staff came from Kenya and Ethiopia—an uneven balance for a continent with 54 countries.

Some technical officers appointed by Kaseye ranked poorly, an audit found. One scored the lowest average grade and “basically failed the interview,” auditors write.

In another case, Kaseye appointed a man over a woman from the same country though she was deemed more qualified than him by a selection panel.

Kaseya also appointed about a dozen advisers. While not a violation of AU rules, most of the advisers have similar titles to other directors and could be duplicating work.

One project—the Zambian-based Image Promotion Limited—drew particular focus when it was awarded a contract as the lowest bidder at $618,638, but was paid $1.6 million after the company had already won the bid.

The company was ultimately paid nearly $2.4 million for the work.

Accused of “misusing donor funds”

In another case, Kaweya was accused of “misusing donor funds” for purchasing a “huge vehicle” that cost over $120,000 for his personal use despite having another luxury vehicle provided by the AU. A funder agreed to pony up the money and the charge was dismissed.

In Kaseya’s defense, the auditors agreed that the oversight problems were a reputational issue for the organization—in other words, they didn’t start with Kaseya.

In his response to auditors, Kaseya agreed to improve the way the organization works and to establish an ethics office “to improve workplace culture, support employees, and provide a confidential space to identify and address issues.”

In a separate development, the African CDC and UNICEF have announced an extended partnership, dedicated to strengthening primary health care, supply chain management, local management and emergency response. The partnership aims to achieve the goals outlined in the African Union Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want and should have a significant impact on public health in Africa with a particular focus on immunization for children across the continent. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Dr Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Source: LinkedIn

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