Tab AIDS Fund

As per a news report carried in this newspaper recently, it has become obvious that the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) is not happy with the (mis)utilization of funds meant for HIV/AIDS campaign in Nagaland. This comes from none other than the NACO Director General Sujato Rao herself who admits that the huge inflow of funds was ‘getting stuck somewhere up there’ and ‘never reaching the grassroots’. The Director General went on to add that the Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS) should spend whatever money it is receiving “judiciously.” No one will question the fact that the NSACS has a huge responsibility as far as the fight against HIV/AIDS goes. And being the nodal agency working on such a serious health and human rights concern—what with Nagaland’s status on HIV/AIDS not very encouraging—NSACS has a mounting task ahead to deliver on this front. For this every effort must be made to streamline the working of the agency particularly when it comes to governance and fund utilization.  

With the Budget Session of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) beginning today, the earlier proposal made by the Opposition Congress and supported by the ruling DAN government for setting up a Joint Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (JPIC) to inquire into the expenditure incurred by the Nagaland State AIDS Control Society, needs to be set into motion. It may be mentioned that during the last Monsoon session of the NLA, both the government and Opposition Congress had taken a serious note on the attempted fraudulent withdrawal of draft meant for NSACS. And from what the NACO Director General disclosed to this newspaper, everything does not seem to be okay as far as HIV/AIDS fund use in the State goes. Even observers from the national Media who were in Nagaland to assess the situation have expressed their concern about NSACS’ fund utilization. This needs to be corrected.

The reason why a check on HIV/AIDS fund use not only in Nagaland but across the country is required is because over the years the financial allocation to this sector has recorded the highest growth among all the National Health Programmes. However, experience across the states (Bihar was in the news recently) shows that there is little coordination besides the fact that there has not been a well planned strategy for financing of the efforts. Available records show little about the exact direction of the flow of fund at the micro level and much of the details of real utilisation of the funds do not appear to be transparent. This is the crux of the problem. 

Given the incidence of HIV/AIDS infected people growing in India and the colossal amount of funds flowing in, there is requirement to conduct periodical evaluation of the AIDS Control Programmes throughout the country, so that the real financial spending could be assessed. Even in the case of Nagaland, the question on everyone’s mind is that so much of money comes to them but where do NGOs spend all this. An all out effort must be made to curb corruption in this sector. One of the ways is for the government to keep tabs on the money coming in and how it is used. But whether the political leadership in Nagaland is up to this task remains to be seen. Hopefully the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (JPIC) will be able to take the lead to inquire into this aspect of fund utilization in Nagaland.