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The US Agency for International Development (USAID) could lose some of its funding unless it makes its malaria programme more effective and financially transparent.

Last week (12 May), a Senate subcommittee heard the results of a US congressional investigation into USAID's spending on malaria.

The investigation struggled to find out how the agency's annual malaria budget — which amounts to US$90 million this year — is spent. This has led to warnings that unless transparency improves, USAID's malaria funds could be transferred to the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Roger Bate, US director of Africa Fighting Malaria told the congressional inquiry that just five per cent of USAID's 2004 malaria budget was spent on bednets, insecticides and drugs, and 13 per cent was spent on vaccine research. The remainder, he testified, was spent on technical assistance, meetings and consultancy fees.

The investigation was prompted by a 2004 article in Nature by Amir Attaran, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Attaran told the congressional inquiry that the USAID malaria funds were mainly being used to pay US consultants and to fund US-based non-profit organisations.

The acting assistant director of USAID, Kent Hill, told Nature, however that the agency prioritises hiring local staff and building local infrastructure.

Link to full Nature news story