Health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has demanded that about R800m awarded to KwaZulu Natal (KZN) by the Global AIDS Fund be handed to the national government.
The money had been earmarked to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.
With a 36% HIV prevalence rate, KZN is SA's worst-affected province but government says KZN should not have approached the fund directly and that it is unfair for it to have secured so much when other provinces lack the capacity to submit bids.
The minister's attitude is hard to understand given that, in total, SA will receive about R1,8bn from the fund. Of this, R950m will go directly to the national government. SA submitted only two bids and received the largest allocation of any country.
When the minister heard that KZN had approached the fund directly, she demanded it retract its bid, says KZN bid leader Professor Umesh Lalloo, dean of medicine at Natal University. But it was too late; the bid had already been approved.
Lalloo was subsequently called to a meeting at the presidency by Msimang and minister Essop Pahad, along with KZN premier Ben Ngubane and KZN Health MEC Zweli Mkhize, to explain the province's breach of bid protocol.
The US2bn fund accepts direct applications from provinces and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) under exceptional circumstances but gives preference to proposals from country co-ordination mechanisms - collaborative partnerships between government and civil society.
Government declared at the last minute that the barely functioning SA National AIDS Council (Sanac) would fullfil this role.
We didn't pursue Sanac because of the tight time frame and because we knew it wasn't in a position to pursue it at such short notice, explains Lalloo.
KZN's bid was driven by Natal University's school of medicine and involved the provincial department of health, Durban Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and other civil society organisations. We applied for the funds on the basis that we have various programmes ready to roll and are able to implement them, says
More than R100m of the grant is for business and worker-related HIV/AIDS programmes. The chamber has pledged to try to match this amount. Its HIV/AIDS spokesman, Brad Mears, says it is hoping for an amicable solution to the row. (Source: Financial Mail, 14 June 2002)