Madonna's Malawi Charity Collapses In Financial Scandal

For years, Madonna has been raising millions to start a school in Malawi, and she even participated in a groundbreaking ceremony. But today The New York Times reports that plans have fallen through due to horrible mismanagement.

All the directors of Raising Malawi have been tossed out and the charity is currently being run by a caretaker board, which includes Madonna. Two individuals are being blamed for squandering $3.8 million on the project: Anjimile Oponyo, who was selected to be the head the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls last year, and Philippe van den Bossche, who was executive director of Raising Malawi from 2005 until October 2010.

In November, Madonna had the Global Philanthropy Group examine the organization. The group's report accused Van den Bossche of "extreme" mismanagement and lack of oversight in both constructing the building and developing the curriculum for the planned $15 million school for 400 girls. The Times reports that this, "included what auditors described as outlandish expenditures on salaries, cars, office space and a golf course membership, free housing and a car and driver for the school's director." Fun fact: van den Bossche just happens to be the boyfriend of Madonna's former trainer Tracy Anderson! It's hard to believe, but the woman who's been accused of hiring uncertified trainers and other financial misdeeds may be dating shady character.

The report also said of Oponyo:

"Her charisma masks a lack of substantive knowledge of the practical application of educational development, and her weak management skills are a major contributor to the current financial and programmatic chaos."

Trevor Neilson of the Global Philanthropy Group says he'd advised Madonna that it would be more beneficial to the children of Malawi if she funded existing programs, rather than building a new school. However, quietly pumping money into other charities doesn't have the same panache as running your own school, particularly when a fellow mega-star has the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

It's hard to attack Madonna for ostensibly wanting to do good in the country and contributing millions to the project. But as we discussed when Madonna broke ground on the school in 2009, we may be seeing the negative side to celebrities adopting an impoverished country as their pet cause. Some Malawi officials have accused Madonna of blaming the organization's managers when she simply wasn't able to raise enough money. Showbiz 411 makes a similar charge, saying Raising Malawi has shown signs of financial trouble for years. It also questions the findings of the report, which was supplied to the Times by Kabbalah Centre International. Raising Malawi co-founder Michael Berg, who escapes blame in the Times piece, is also co-director of the Kabbalah Centre.

Madonna's activities in Malawi have been controversial from the start, and now it's unclear whether she's done more harm or good in the country. Last year, about 200 people were pushed off their land to make way for the non-existent school. Madonna claims that she's raised $18 million and still plans to invest the money into other programs in the country, but Showbiz 411 suggests the charity could have far less. Whether Madonna's ego or mismanagement by the charity's directors is to blame, Raising Malawi is in disarray and millions of dollars never reached people who desperately need it.

Madonna's Charity Fails In A Bid To Finance School [NYT]
Madonna's Rotten Charity: We Told You About This Last Year, And The Year Before [Showbiz 411]
Malawi Villagers Forced To Move For A Madonna School [HuffPo]

Earlier: Gwyneth's Fitness Muse Hires "Hot" Uncertified Trainers
Gwyneth Paltrow's Celeb Trainer: Financial Charlatan
White (Wo)Man's Burden: Madonna, Malawi, & Celebrity Activisim