NZ taxpayers will continue funding Clinton Foundation’s flagship

The New Zealand government will continue supporting the Clinton Foundation’s flagship project by donating a further $6 million despite a wave of recent controversy surrounding the charitable organisation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) tells NBR it has “no intention to further review our support for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).”

CHAI began as an initiative under the Clinton Foundation but has since been separated out to a non-profit organisation with a focus on reducing the cost of HIV/AIDS medicine in sub-Saharan Africa.

CHAI accounts for almost two-thirds of the Clinton Foundation’s annual income and expense according to online disclosures and was, until recently, vice-chaired by Chelsea Clinton with former US President Bill Clinton serving as a board member.

Following political pressure, CHAI released a list of all of its donors from the past six years, along with how much they had donated in August.

As it turns out, MFAT was on the list and near the top alongside the likes of the World Health Organisation, Save the Children and the Rockefeller Foundation, which all donated between $US1-5 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was one of CHAI’s biggest donors, along with the Australian government, which donated more than $US25 million to the organisation.

MFAT says it has donated to CHAI since 2013 through New Zealand’s Aid Programme.

The programme has been providing funding and technical assistance for the agriculture-strengthening component of a project in Rwanda and Ethiopia.

MFAT had an original budget of $13.7 million to distribute to CHAI, of which $7.7 million has been distributed to date, with a further $6 million remaining.

It has a $1.7 billion aid budget over three years, of which most will be delivered through international organisations such as CHAI, an MFAT spokesman says. MFAT’s only support for CHAI has been though the funding of a project that aims to significantly reduce child malnutrition and raise incomes in Rwanda and Ethiopia, he says.

In hot water
CHAI has recently found itself at the centre of controversy in the US. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been forced to defend the Clinton Foundation on her campaign trail, following accusations by her Republican rival Donald Trump, along with other Republicans, that wealthy donors may be expecting favourable treatment from the US government.

Although Mrs Clinton denies this, the foundation revealed last month it would no longer receive donations from foreigners or corporations if Mrs Clinton won the race for the White House. But the organisation made no mention of CHAI at the time.

After weeks of speculation, in early September a CHAI spokeswoman announced the initiative would take steps to sever ties with the Clinton family if Mrs Clinton is elected president and would spin CHAI off into a “completely independent” charity.

But CHAI does not plan on implementing restrictions on where it can raise money – meaning it can still accept donations from New Zealand.

The controversy did not stop there. Just weeks after CHAI’s decision, US Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn released a 71-page report slamming CHAI’s “self-serving” philanthropy in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report, titled: The Clinton Foundation and the “India Success Story: Self-serving philanthropy, watered down drugs and money in sub-Saharan Africa, alleges the Clinton Foundation “likely facilitated the distribution of watered down HIV/AIDS medications in sub-Saharan African through its Health Access Initiative [CHAI.]”

The report scrutinises the relationship between CHAI and Indian pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy, which partnered with the initiative in 2003, working with CHAI to combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Ranbaxy Laboratories, now owned by Sun Pharma, is a multinational pharmaceutical company.

One of CHAI’s main roles is to bring together buyers of antiretroviral drugs used to fight HIV/AIDS, such as governments, non-profits and multilateral aid organisations, with sellers such as Ranbaxy.

The initiative has, by most accounts, been successful in bringing down the price of the lifesaving drugs and has been welcomed by the global community.

But Ranbaxy has run into problems with US regulators.

Ms Blackburn’s report says a former employee of the company turned whistleblower, Dinesh Thakur, confirmed the company’s HIV/AIDs antiretrovirals were adulterated. The US government took Ranbaxy to court in 2007 resulting in the company pleading guilty to seven felonies and paying a half billion dollar fine in 2013. 

Ms Blackburn also suggests the adulterated drugs may have “increased patient mortality rates” in the region.

MFAT won’t comment on the report but says its funding is focused on providing technical assistance for agriculture-strengthening components of projects in Rwanda and Ethiopia, as well as working with local farmers to aid in the development of factories to produce food.

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