(CBS Local) — An investigation of the Red Cross has revealed that at least $6 million was stolen from funds and donations meant to help stop an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa.
According to reports, the missing money was uncovered after the Red Cross looked at how the organization spent over $120 million gathered to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea from 2014 to 2016. The Associated Press writes former Red Cross workers colluded with local bank employees in the three countries to fake and overestimate the cost of relief items, expenses, and the workers’ paychecks.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has confirmed the theft and said it is “outraged” that people connected to the organization would take part in such fraud.
“IFRC is committed to holding all those involved in any form of fraud to account, and to reclaiming all misappropriated, diverted, or otherwise illegally taken funds,” the IFRC wrote in a statement.
The virus, which causes severe bleeding and organ failure, reportedly led to the death of 11,000 people on the continent over the two years the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a medical emergency. The WHO officially ended their public health alert for Ebola in March of 2016.
The Ebola fraud investigation is the latest controversy to impact the Red Cross this year. The organization has drawn heavy criticism from Americans following their response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. With over $300 million donated to relief efforts, workers have been slammed for a perceived lack of presence in the storm-ravaged areas of Texas and Florida.
In September, Houston City Councilman Dave Martin called for people to stop donating to the Red Cross. Martin called the organization the, “most inept, unorganized organization I’ve ever experienced.”
The IFRC has not issued an official apology for the stolen Ebola donations however, Red Cross officials told the BBC they were “deeply sorry for the losses.”