The transnational investigation, done by the African Investigative Publishing Collective in partnership with ZAM Magazine in Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Mali, Cameroon and Ghana, uncovered that billions of dollars, meant for medical care, school meals, roads and safety, are not used as they should be.

Among the unspent expenditures discovered were a monthly allocation of US$ 2 million for education and health care services in four rural areas in Nigeria that simply stays ‘trapped’ in the state system. In Kenya, an amount of US$ 375 million was found wasted on unnecessary medical contracts and machines, while in Somalia, a budget meant for wages for soldiers meant to fight terrorism is almost redirected in its entirety to fund government officials’ personal networks. In Ghana, repeated investments of millions of dollars into tomato canning factories have not resulted in even one of these working, while rotting harvests of tomatoes in the rural areas lead annually to suicides among tomato farmers.

Market women's trucks on their way home to Ghana. Photo Zack Ohemeng Tawiah

The main conclusion of the investigation is that at least in the cases of the six countries the main problem is not the absence of money, but the way in which it is spent. Interestingly, the country with the most foreign (western) involvement in its expenditure (half of the state’s salaries and practically the entire security sector are funded by donor countries and the World Bank) was the least effective in getting the money where it should go. AIPC reporter Muno Gedi interviewed Somali soldiers who, after not having been paid their salaries for months on end, deserted to join the much better organised fundamentalist militants of Al-Shabab.

It is the first time that a team of investigative journalists from several African countries have come together to dig deep into questions surrounding often-assumed poverty, bad governance and corruption in Africa.

The team concludes that, rather than incidents of corruption and theft, bad governance is often to blame for the wastage of moneys meant for public service. The reason why there is so much bad governance needs to be further investigated, the team says, but suggests that “generations of tinkering” with a colonial system that “worked for colonisers, but never much for locals,” may play a role. The team adds that it is possible that dysfunctionality is at times also engineered or aggravated, since “clumsy and irrational processes” provide for more “stealing opportunities.”

In a recommendation the team calls for “a dialogue with civil society and good-governance-pioneers in state structures on how to improve the management of budgets.”

Read the full report here.