The Government Accountability Project (GAP) has learned that Laurence Fauth – an attorney retained by John Parsons, the former Inspector General of the Global Fund (GF) who was dismissed from his post on 15 November 2012 for alleged “unsatisfactory performance” – filed an appeal of the decision before the International Labour Organization Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT) in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this month. Fauth also filed a defamation claim on Parsons’ behalf before the ILOAT for the pejorative public news release issued by the GF Board on the same date.
According to Fauth, his client vigorously denies that his performance was unsatisfactory, and he intends to protect and restore his good name and to seek full redress with the ILOAT for his injuries. Fauth declined to comment on the cases further.
Parsons’ termination by the GF Board has attracted political attention in the United States, as the U.S. is a major donor to the organization. For 2012, the United States government pledged $1.3 billion. According to U.S. legislation (The Leadership Act, sec. 202), for Congress to release these funds, the Secretary of State must periodically certify that the GF maintains an independent Office of the Inspector General. Parsons’ dismissal, and the appeals now before the ILOAT, may therefore threaten the contribution of the U.S. pledge, as the firing of an Inspector General strongly suggests interference with the independence of the office, and raises serious questions about accountability.
Nonetheless, the AP reported at the time Parsons was fired that Board members were not worried about the financial implications of their action:
The board chairman, Simon Bland, and the head of its audit committee, Graham Joscelyne, each said they were unconcerned whether U.S. lawmakers might perceive the firing as an infringement on the office.
The GF’s reasons for the dismissal are in stark contrast to the conclusions of the High-Level Panel on Fiduciary Controls and Oversight Mechanisms, convened in January 2011 by the GF Board, which strongly commended the performance of the Inspector General. Parsons had served as IG since 2008. In a 157-page report, published in September 2011, the Panel wrote:
Established in July 2005 at the behest of the donors, the OIG has been the only risk-mitigation strategy within the Global Fund that has worked as designed. The Panel has enormous respect for the positive impact the OIG’s work has had on securing the organization’s investments. With rigor and thoroughness, the OIG has shown that the Global Fund takes the integrity of its portfolio seriously (emphasis added) (pp. 54-55)
The Co-Chairs of the Panel were The Honorable Michael O. Leavitt, and His Excellency Festus Mogae. Leavitt, a former three-term Governor of Utah, served in the cabinet of U.S. President George W. Bush as Secretary of Health and Human Services and as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Mogae, former President of the Republic of Botswana, led the campaign that fought the HIV/AIDS pandemic in his country.
When contacted by GAP, a spokesman for the Global Fund said that because the appeal is a legal matter, the organization could not comment.
At GAP, where we have dealt with thousands of whistleblowers over the years, we recognize the actions of the GF in this case as the classic form of retaliation against an internal watchdog who has done his job all too well.