Does Madonna need procurement guidance?

I am very conscious that we want to be more international in our reporting here, so as I research (Google), looking for interesting procurement news, a depressing fact becomes clear.  It would be very easy to fill our ‘pages’ with stories about fraud and / or incompetence in procurement around the world – because believe me, there are plenty of them out there.

From a few random minutes this’s one from New England, USA (perhaps not the most frequent location for these happenings) about a library chief who used city funds to purchase items for himself to sell online.

Meanwhile, rumours and allegations continue around the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, including questions around how contracts were awarded to various suppliers.

We don’t feature this sort of thing often because...well, it just seems too depressing to have yet another story about a Minister or Agency head being accused of accepting bribes; and I’m not sure what it tells us, other than ‘bad things happen’.

But this caught my attention because of the involvement of Madonna. Her project to build a charitable girls’ school in Malawi is facing collapse, as the Times says (behind their pay-wall):

“… the entire project has disintegrated amidst a welter of allegations of mismanagement. Madonna’s charity has acknowledged that the academy project has been abandoned, and a damning audit has claimed that the management team employed to build the school devoted some $3.8 million to expensive architects, outlandish salaries and a private chauffeur and golf course membership…. the organisation was yet to gain a title for the land, the building work had not yet begun, despite two high profile “ground breaking” ceremonies, and it could not account for all of the funds that had been spent”.

But staff members are hitting back at the charity, accusing them of a ‘plantation mentality’.  So as allegation and counter allegations fly, one thing that seems clear is that adequate standards of project management, commercial planning and procurement have not been achieved here.

It’s tempting to smile cynically about rock stars with more money than sense, but there are poor kids who should be getting educated courtesy of that cash.  It’s not good for Malawi’s image in the wider world; and there’s a chance that some people reading about this will think “I’m not going to contribute to Comic Relief, the money will just get wasted”.

Driving procurement standards and ethics worldwide is in everyone’s interest; it’s an area that has been a genuine CIPS commitment for a long time, and I’m sure ISM, NIGP and others would say the same. But is there anything more we as procurement people can do?  Can we make sure that Madonna and others like her understand better what should be done when money is being spent on behalf of others? What about a ‘procurement guide’ for major donors?  Any other thoughts?

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Voices (2)

  1. Rick Grimm:

    Peter, I certainly agree with your assessment that professional associations like CIPS and the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) need to take the lead in developing standards of practice for the profession – standards that can apply to the procurement and contracting profession whether practiced by the public sector or by philanthropic bodies like Madonna’s charity that are intended to promote public good.

    I am pround that NIGP has been working to develop Values and Guiding Principles for Public Procurement that embrace the tenats of accountability, ethics, impartiality, professionalism, service, and transparency. These values drill down to a series of guiding principles which further align with a series of acceptable standards. NIGP is employing a collaborative approach to develop these standards – involving the key public sector procurement associations in North America as well as other major stakeholder groups in the United States – and will eventually seek support and engagement from our global counterparts; especially from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) as a premier professional organization serving both the private and public sectors.

    It is my hope that, one day, CIPS and NIGP will collaborate on global principles and practices that will serve as the cornerstone for effective procurement and embraced by funding organizations that provide grants to improve public procurement in developing nations. NIGP’s project, borne from a strategic initiative adopted by the NIGP Board in 2009, is more fully explained and updated through a unique website at .

    I encourage comments through Peter’s blog and/or through the principles and practices blog.


    Rick Grimm CPPO CPPB
    NIGP Chief Executive

  2. Peter Bentley:

    Funnily enough, I got asked to go into a charity last week and talk to them about procurement for this very reason! Their partners do not (currently) have strict procurement guidelines, and as such they had been ‘told off’ by the government org who gives them money. There has also been an incident of fraud/ corruption (i wasnt informed what exactly), but the community who are involved in the project actually wrote a procurement manual themselves! This manual written in a phillaphino slum is as good (albeit on a vey local level) as any we have as a government organisation, in theirs they count in the logs and sign every single one that is delivered! The delivery man then countersigns it, and the document is witnessed by the man in charge of storage! The charity in question had very little experience in procurement, but with my help now know what they should be asking, as well as the answers to look for in the procurement capacity of their partners organisations, this seems to be an incredibly important thing to do! And more charities are probably losing valuable donations similarly… and is something I would love to help with if anyone wants me to do so!

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