Friday, July 11, 2008

More on waste, corruption and lack of logic on the NGO scene in Ghana

Lately I’ve been in touch with various players in the fields of Aid and development for Africa. Time and time again I am faced with overly positive, self assured people who are confident that they are doing their part to end poverty, or AIDs, or malaria, or even traffic injuries in children in Africa. They dedicate their time and positive energy to a fault. They believe in and trust the organizations that work in these countries to carry out the good work for the right reasons, to a positive end.

They believe in the philosophies of aid and the mechanisms to implement it… This is where they are very wrong.

If anyone really thought about it, they would realize that aid organizations cannot possibly support the end of poverty or whatever other societal ill they campaign about – the very achievement of their goal would put them out of business. And make no mistake this is BIG BUSINESS.

Recently I had a chat with the country director of an American agricultural NGO in Ghana (fully funded by USAID). The organization has been operating for over 15 years here. The director has personally been here in his capacity for almost 10 years. He likes the lifestyle, he married a local. Are his projects successful? He laughs. “Well I have to support a handful of hopeless project initiatives every year, so they can be extended, and my job is secure for another couple years…”


This week, I had the opportunity in my professional life, to come face to face with a typical mind boggling policy of the Aid world. Another American organization, focusing on women’s issues such as health and human rights, also funded by USAID, that we serve as Internet providers. A year ago, we had installed a $15,000 satellite dish and uplink for one of their projects. This week I got a call from their IT Manager asking for a quote for another complete system, as they were closing the one project office and starting a new one in another location.

“But we can easily decommission and transport the dish to the new site, and resume your service there”. I explained, expecting a grateful OK from him.
“No, we can’t do that.” He explained to my amazement. “You see, that project is finished. It had a budget and a register of assets. Now that the project is complete, all assets are written off. It’s standard. So, we need to purchase a new set for the new project. It has a new budget allocated for communications.”

“But surely you can sell over the equipment from one project to the other! The equipment has a minimum 10 year lifespan and is only a year old!” I explained, thinking of the ABSOLUTE WASTE in funder’s resources.

“Holli, please understand, that is not how we work. The funders have allotted money for new equipment. That is what we do. Please let me know if we can send through the purchase order so I can get back to my superiors with feedback.”

And that was that.

So, another $15,000 for a new satellite dish and electronics, while a virtually new set, will rot on thelot of first office site down the road. No doubt these policies apply to the new Land Cruisers for the projects as well as office furniture, supplies etc etc etc… The other question relates to where the used vehicles and furniture go? There is surely a bustling side industry going on with all the local employees of the Aid orgs in possession of all these valuable written off assets…

How many women's lives could be saved, how much medication, shelter, support could have been covered with this wasted money???

Do the American taxpayers know this is going on?! Does Bono support this frivolous illogical waste??!!

Surely not. He doesn’t want to know about it. As long as he gets that ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ of being PC, helping the world, caring for the needy in Africa, he can sleep at night.

I am the negative one on the other hand, I must have lost my sense of empathy.
Then why is it me awake at night churning this hypocrisy over and over in my mind?
By the way – this woman’s rights NGO has no females in it’s senior management team. Not one…
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fred said...

Holli, I just stumbled upon your blog, and have been reading for the last two hours, skipping dinner along the way.
Your story on the USAID brought me up short. I knew about some of the self-perpetuating aspects of NGO's, but your story disturbed me nevertheless. I am coming at my desire to volunteer from the other end of the age spectrum: I am a retired science professor, who would like to make himself useful. After seven recent trips to several African countries I have seen something of the educational systems that prevail, and seen great needs.
How far do you want to generalize from USAID to other NGO's? I have found several dozens on the internet, some of them obviously falling into the category of those who are out to fleece unwary volunteers.
Could you provide any counsel, in general or for Ghana specifically?
I will be visiting Ghana in February 2009, but as a tourist to get a feel for the country.

Detmar, from Maine

Tony nile life said...

Seems not only ghana has a problem with aid reading that add.
trust the Egyptians again to jump on the band wagon

Tony nile life said...

Just me rambling feel very pissed off today the reason is on all of my blogs, Nile pollution, and corruption.

The pale observer said...

I'm feeling you Tony :)

Obibini Bruni said...

It is for this reason that local grassroots initiatives are often the best and most productive. When organizations are community-led, or at least have high rates of community involvement and have low funds, each dollar tends to go so much further and towards the work being done.

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