Michel Kazatchkine, Global FundCould French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy have brought down the head of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria?

That’s what some media reports are suggesting.

On Tuesday, Dr. Kazatchkine, who was appointed Executive Director in 2007, abruptly resigned from his position effective March 16. In a letter to his colleagues, he stated that he could not continue on in his role after the board decided to appoint a general manager to oversee the Fund’s turnaround plan, a move that seemed to have been made to thwart his power. "I have reflected long and hard on the implications of this decision for me and for the organization," said Dr. Kazatchkine in the letter. "While I remain fully committed to the Global Fund and its mission, I have concluded that I should not continue as Executive Director in these circumstances."

The Fund denied media reports by France's Liberation newspaper that Dr. Kazatchkine’s resignation was linked to allegations that the Fund had benefited charities linked to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

"I categorically deny the information (published on Liberation's website) saying Michel Kazatchkine reportedly resigned because of the questioning of his links with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy," Simon Bland said in a statement to AFP.

Even so, after an internal review to address accusations of corruption and fraud, the fund suffered donor losses.

In November, the Global Fund’s board approved a transformation plan to address the findings of the panel, along with a new four-year strategy. Part of that plan included a decision to appoint a general manager to oversee this transformation, who would report to the board and assume full executive responsibilities.

On 1 February, Gabriel Jaramillo, a former chairman and CEO of Sovereign Bank with more than 35 years of experience in executive positions in the financial sector, will become general manager of the fund for a one-year appointment. His job will be "a newly created position intended to oversee a process of transformation as it accelerates the fight against the three pandemics by focusing on its management of risk and grants."

"My priorities at the Global Fund are to achieve maximum efficiency, accountability and concrete results that save lives," Jaramillo said. "In essence, we will start with a reorganization that emphasizes simplicity, discipline and rigor, with grant-management as the core activity of the institution."

"I am honored to have been asked to take up this challenge," Jaramillo said.  

"He is an outstanding choice, and exactly what we need at this time:  an excellent manager and a proven financial leader who can direct change and improve performance in a large institution during a time of transition," said the Global Fund’s Board Chair, Simon Bland. 

The Global Fund’s mission is to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria - some of the world's most deadly scourges - with donations from partner governments as well as foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This week, Saudi Arabia announced it would donate $25 million to the Global Fund. The contribution, which will be paid in full by 2013, will bring the total contribution from Saudi Arabia in the last ten years to $53 million.

The Global Fund will invest around $10 billion in the funding period of 2011-2013, up from $8 billion between 2008 and 2010.

(Photo © AP)