Madonna, Malawi and the mismanaged millions

Plans for academy collapse amid allegations of grotesque waste

Madonna insisted last night that she would continue with her mission to boost the lives of young girls in Malawi, after it was reported that her plans to build an elite academy in the country had collapsed amid allegations that millions of dollars had been squandered on the flagship project.

The board of directors of her charity Raising Malawi, which is backed by Hollywood stars as well as the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah movement, has been replaced by a caretaker team including Madonna and her manager, according to The New York Times.

It is claimed that $3.8m (£2.4m) was already lavished on the controversial $15m (£9.3m) project to build a school for 400 youngsters near the capital Lilongwe in southern Malawi. But an audit commissioned following the departure last October of the charity's executive director, who was the partner of Madonna's ex-personal trainer, criticised senior staff and identified poor management practices.

The decision to scrap the academy was first mooted in January, prompting recriminations from the Malawian government and local villagers angry after giving up their homes to make way for the 117-acre high-profile development. In 2009 Madonna, 52, who has adopted two children from Malawi, visited the region amid a blaze of publicity ahead of planned building work for the institution which it was hoped would create "future women leaders" for the impoverished nation.

But yesterday's New York Times said the scheme had been abandoned and criticised in an internal audit by the Global Philanthropy Group (GPG). It claimed that the report revealed "outlandish expenditures" for the unbuilt academy including "salaries, cars, office space and a golf course membership, free housing and a car and driver for the school's director".

Madonna said she was frustrated. She said she had raised $18m (£11.2m) which will now go towards school building across Malawi, and added: "Sixty-seven per cent of girls don't go to secondary school, and this is unacceptable. Our team is going to work hard to address this in every way we can."

However the New York Times noted that aides were unable to explain why the problems had not been spotted sooner despite Madonna's involvement. Trevor Neilson, a GPG founder, told the paper he had advised her that a costly school was not the best way to further development goals.

He said money had been spent on architects, design and salaries and two cars for staff who had not yet been recruited. "Despite $3.8m having been spent by the previous management team, the project has not broken ground, there was no title to the land and there was, overall, a startling lack of accountability on the part of the management team in Malawi and ... the United States," he said

"We have yet to determine exactly what happened to all of that $3.8m. We have not accounted for all the funds."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...