I was afraid of this–and we see it again and again. When mega celebrities like Bono and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates came together to fund an anti AIDS and malaria project, the motives are splendid–but big money and celebrated international aid efforts often lead to mega corruption. And now, we find as much as 2/3 of the money has gone up in the smoke. From the story:
A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, the Associated Press has learned. Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market.
The fund’s newly strengthened inspector general’s office, which uncovered the corruption, can’t give an overall accounting because it has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002. But the levels of corruption in the grants they have audited so far are astonishing. A full 67 percent of money expended on an anti-AIDS program in Mauritania was misspent, the investigators told the fund’s board of directors. So was 36 percent of the money spent on a program in Mali to fight tuberculosis and malaria, and 30 percent of grants to Djibouti.
The UN’s efforts are also corruption ridden and mired in mind boggling bureaucracy.
What to do? We can’t ignore the misery, but these huge star-studded efforts are too often high on glitz and low on management acumen, efficiency, and on-the-ground savvy.
Here’s my approach: When tragedy strikes or when I want to contribute to efforts to alleviate misery, I donate to a well established charity–generally Christian oriented–not because of faith, but trust. Several have demonstrated the ability to achieve beneficial results over many years, at low administrative cost, and have good reputations for probity and providing bounteous benefits for the buck.
The better results these charities produce are, I think, a consequence of size and mission. Less money means easier management. In addition, its workers are generally answering a deeply felt calling and, hence, may be more dedicated to the cause and unafraid to get their hands dirty by being ever-present locally.
Thus, it seems to me, that if one wishes to use his or her money to best advantage to help the truly needy, go with the proven–and humble–self givers. It’s not enough–to be sure–but it is, I think, more fruitful than joining the “in crowd.”