The Latest: US backs reform efforts at UN health agency
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the World Health Organization trying to rein in travel abuses (all times local):
The United States, the biggest contributor to the World Health Organization, says it supports efforts by the agency’s chief to restructure and find reforms in the organization’s budget.
Internal documents obtained by the Associated Press show WHO spent nearly $192 million on travel expenses last year, with staffers sometimes breaking the agency’s own rules by traveling in business class, booking expensive last-minute tickets and traveling without required approval.
Asked about WHO’s travel expenses on the sidelines of the U.N. health agency’s annual assembly, U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar said Monday the United States did not have specific concerns but was “supportive” of efforts by its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to restructure the agency.
Azar told reporters at the U.S. mission in Geneva that “we remain supportive of continued efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the WHO.” He says Tedros “has our support and backing, but continued efforts of reform are needed.”
The World Health Organization spent nearly $192 million on travel expenses last year, with staffers sometimes breaking the agency’s own rules by traveling in business class, booking expensive last-minute tickets and traveling without the required approvals, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The abuses could spook potential donors and partners as the organization begins its week-long annual meeting Monday in Geneva, seeking increased support to fight a devastating outbreak of Ebola in Congo and other deadly diseases including polio, malaria and measles.
The nearly $192 million is down 4% from 2017, when the agency pledged to rein in travel abuses following an AP investigation. But auditors found some WHO staffers were brazenly misrepresenting the reasons for their travel.
In response, WHO said “travel is often essential to reaching people in need” and noted more than half of its travel spending was on experts and country representatives