UPDATE: “Outlandish Expenditures” at Madonna’s Malawi Project

April 11, 2011

UPDATE: Newsweek has an article on the Raising Malawi issues in which they report that “only 27% of girls attend secondary school” and that only $850,000 of the $3.8 million under debate was actually spent in Malawi.

The article details the relationship between the nonprofit organization and its murky relationship with its parent company, the Kabbalah Center in L.A. The article also expands on the current claims against the Center, its misspending, possible tax evasion, and ponzi scheme profiteering. The article suggests that the blame placed on the now ex-director of the academy is a distraction tactic and that the accusations are missplaced, noting that the extravagances such as the golf membership and a car purchase sited were actually worth $461 a year and a 1996 reconditioned Toyota, respectively.

PREVIOUSLY POSTED: The New York Times is reporting that Madonna’s foundation Raising Malawi has abandoned its original goal of building a $15 million school for girls in the impoverished country. The Executive Director of the project stepped down in October with allegations of cost overruns and general mismanagement. The auditors unveiled what they described as “outlandish expenditures on salaries, cars, office space and a golf course membership, free housing and a car and driver for the school’s director.”  As a result, the board of directors has been ousted and replaced with a caretaker board to address the shortfalls and shift the foundation’s strategies.

After having spent over $3.8 million on the school project without even breaking ground or securing land, the foundation has reassessed its goals with the help of the Global Philanthropy Group. Madonna recruited the Group’s founder, Trevor Neilsen who suggested that by directing resources into the existing frameworks from nongovernmental organizations may be a more effective form of helping the community than an expensive school built from scratch.

In her statement released yesterday Madonna sited statistics that 67% of the girls in Malawi don’t go to secondary school. She affirmed her commitment to the organization and the community, stating her intent to continue utilizing the foundation to help improve education in the nation. After the initial shake-up, Madonna issued a statement released in January on the foundation’s website where she acknowledged the shifting strategy by stating “In a country where only 33% of Malawian girls attend secondary school, I realize that the plans we had in place for the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls simply would not serve enough children.” In addition to needing a more decisive statistician,there exists a real need for the attention that Madonna and her foundation have brought to Malawi.

My point in posting about this incident is to show another example where ample funding, best intent, real need, and even celebrity backing can collapse if the board of directors is not actively engaged and there is a general lack of managerial oversight.

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