March 25th, 2011
05:31 PM ET
It looks like Madonna’s plan to build a $15 million school for approximately 400 girls in Malawi won’t come to fruition, according to the New York Times.
The superstar co-founded the Raising Malawi charity through which the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls was to be built, but the organization has said that plans for the project have been discontinued and the organization’s board of directors replaced by a “caretaker board” that includes Madonna and her manager.
Update, 3/28 1:27 p.m.: A statement from Madonna's rep provides clarification that "The Raising Malawi Academy for Girls is a Malawi based organization which is independent from Raising Malawi Inc.. ," and that "the former is the organization which has made the changes. RM Inc. has been a donor to the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls but has discontinued funding because of concerns related to how funds were spent."
Apparently the singer realized there were potential problems within the charity last year, and solicited assistance from the Global Philanthropy Group.
Trevor Neilson, a founder of the organization, says he advised Madonna that building the pricey educational property was "an ineffective form of philanthropy," and suggested putting the donated funds toward already existing educational programs created by nongovernmental organizations.
Neilson tells the NYT that $3.8 million has already been spent on the now halted project, “with much of the money going to architects, design and salaries and, in one case, two cars for employees who had not even been hired yet," the NYT reports.
“Despite $3.8 million having been spent by the previous management team, the project has not broken ground, there was no title to the land and there was, over all, a startling lack of accountability on the part of the management team in Malawi and the management team in the United States," Neilson says.
He notes that they’ve “yet to determine exactly what happened to all of that $3.8 million. We have not accounted for all the funds that were used.”
In a report, Neilson’s organization was critical of two former officials of Madonna’s charity, saying that the executive director mismanaged “project plans, people and finances” while the woman chosen to head the Academy had “weak management skills” that majorly contributed "to the current financial and programmatic chaos.”
Both of the former officials say that they are prohibited from commenting on or responding to the allegations.
Madonna, however, seems to be moving forward. Raising Malawi has raised $18 million thus far, according to the NYT, and the organization has no intentions of disbanding.
“There’s a real education crisis in Malawi,” Madonna said in a statement to the Times. “Sixty-seven percent of girls don’t go to secondary school, and this is simply unacceptable. Our team is going to work hard to address this in every way we can.”
Madonna declined to provide further comment.
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