Accountants work on supporting international vaccine and health effort

The International Federation of Accountants signed an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to improve accounting practices in the public health sector.

IFAC will work with Gavi and the Global Fund to contribute to, and support, the implementation of robust accounting practices in public health and to improve the overall financial management of donor funds by countries receiving those funds. Under the memorandum of understanding that the groups signed, they will try to strengthen the expertise of accounting and finance professionals and help close the gaps in accounting skills in countries receiving donor funds to improve the reliability and effectiveness of managing and disbursing the funds. The agreement builds on an earlier agreement the organizations signed in 2011 with the goal of optimizing the joint efforts of global health partners to improve the performance of global health investments and support the sustainability of health programs.

The updated memorandum of understanding comes in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, in which Gavi is playing a crucial role. Gavi is a public–private global health partnership whose goal is increasing access to immunization in poorer countries. Gavi is co-leading Covax, an international effort to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries, with the World Health Organization. Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced that it would be shipping 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines abroad, with about three-quarters of them provided through Covax. However, the target date for the overseas shipment has been delayed, and the Covax effort overall has been beset with delays, with many poorer countries complaining that they have received few doses in comparison with wealthier countries like the U.S., which was able to buy up many of the doses as soon as the first vaccines became available. Still, the overall vaccine effort against COVID, as well as older diseases like tuberculosis and malaria that continue to plague the developing world, can use help from experienced accountants with managing donor funds.

A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination super site operated by Sharp HealthCare inside a former Sears store in Chula Vista, California.

Bing Guan/Bloomberg

“Gavi has cooperated with IFAC and national accounting organizations for a number of years to ensure sound financial management of the funding we provide to countries,” said Gavi deputy CEO Anuradha Gupta in a statement Thursday. “This agreement allows us to go much further with a focus on the health sector, in leveraging the expertise of the accountancy profession to boost transparency, build local skills and capacity to improve overall accounting practices, and build a stronger ethical framework. That will ultimately bring economic and societal benefits to everyone.”

The effort will begin in several pilot countries, who will be working in tandem with local professional accountancy organizations. Gavi and the Global Fund take responsibility for funding, selecting beneficiary organizations, and monitoring the implementation of targeted capacity-building activities, which include training, establishing and reinforcing accountancy standards, reinforcing ethics and whistle-blowing policies, implementing diversity and inclusiveness policies and helping set up appropriate legal foundations, governance structures, and operational capacity.

“Equipping our implementing partners with the right financial management skills is essential to maximize the impact of our investments and contributes to greater results in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” said Adda Faye, Global Fund CFO, in a statement.

The memorandum of understanding is expected to eventually lead to better integration of Gavi and the Global Fund investments into country systems, along with improved internal controls to reduce fiduciary and financial risks, enhanced absorption of grants and ultimately greater impact. “Robust and transparent accounting and reporting systems are the bedrock of strong public financial management and are thereby critical to the effectiveness and impact of Gavi and the Global Fund’s disbursement of lifesaving funds and resources,” said IFAC president Alan Johnson in a statement. “Leveraging our global network and accountancy expertise, this MoU underscores the unique value that IFAC and our member bodies bring to organizations with a shared interest in enhancing the accountancy function to build a resilient and sustainable public health sector that leads to a fairer society for all.”