The following article appeared in the Frankfurter Rundschau (one of Germany's largest daily newspapers) last week. (Translation provided by EAWM)
Ambulance for poor patients existed on paper only
How donations amounting to $ 300,000 have disappeared in Tanzania. An insight report into why aid organizations of the German church are having a hard time fighting corruption.
By Matthias Thieme
Bishop Alex Malasusa did not mention the issue of corruption occurring in third world aid of the church during this week's meeting with Hamburg's senator for economic affairs in the "Turmsaal" of the city hall. The chief bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran church in Tanzania chatted rather about city partnerships and the close ties of the various parishes in both countries.
Whether these ties might be too close for the effective fight against corruption is the current topic of a heated debate in church circles.
This pertains, in particular, to blatant cases of misguided development aid funds. Extensive documentation about such projects of German social aid organization in Tanzania is known to the FR, which prove embezzlement of donated funds in the hundreds of thousands Euro.
Among the affected missions are the Evangelical "Mission Eine Welt", the "Nordelbische Missionswerk", and the Saxon "Kirchenprovinz". Nobody denies that a lot of money has simply disappeared. However, how to prevent such cases in future is currently disputed.
Rainer Brandl has seen a lot in his time. But the 44-year old doctor remembers one incident all too well, which makes him angry about aid workers of the church, and their ignorance and appeasements. Brandl has written hundreds of accusing e-mails about this issue.
For three years, the Austrian doctor has been in charge of a station for Aids patients in the hospital of the small town of Bulongwa, Tanzania. With the help of modern instruments and medicine he was able to help the patients in a country, where almost every other person is infected with Aids and the average life span is only 50 years.
However, when Brandl came to the hospital in the morning of 17 April 2006, 30 policemen with submachine guns were gathering before the doorway. They detained the doctor from entering the building threatening to use force. Brandl was only allowed to take along his laptop. All the valuable medical instruments, which were financed by the Austrian "Arbeitskreis für Weltmission" were confiscated. Since then, the patients are looked after only by unqualified staff. There is no medical help. Brandl says, "I have been threatened by members of the Tanzanian church and I had to leave the country for my own protection."
Brandl is quite sure, that the reason for him being thrown out of the hospital is related to the fact, that he suspected the former bishop of the diocese, Shadrack Manyiewa, and other church members of corruption. He puts the blame on German missions not to have taken any action against the corrupt bishop and the mismanagement of the various projects. "The children and the poor suffer more from the criminal actions of the persons in charge for managing and controlling the aid funds locally as if there would be no aid at all", says Brandl.
Therefore he acted himself and engaged an auditor as a support for a self-help-group of Aids-patients, which was determined to do something against corruption. The auditor's report about the financial misconduct of the persons responsible in the aid projects was unmasking. This created quite a buzz and the press in Tanzania reported this in full detail. However, some church people hated the bustling doctor Rainer Brandl. Brandl in turn regards the church as being blind towards the issue of corruption in their Tanzanian parishes and as a result, the church does more harm than good. "Patients have died as a result of the Aids station being shut down, because adequate treatment became impossible", says Brandl. "This is, in part, also the fault of the German church".
Rayben Sanga lives in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam and has meticulously examined the use of funds in the various aid projects. The independent auditor has prepared endless lists with dry numbers showing a disaster. The aid has failed. Donated funds have disappeared. There is theft, corruption and triggery.
The result: Approximately $ 300,000, mainly made up of German donations, never reached the people in Tanzania, for whom the money was intended. Instead, large amounts were siphoned off by project managers. Wages have been paid twice or salaries were transferred to deceased. Even the local bishop, Shadrack Manyiewa, helped himself and had his new 4WD-car financed for the amount of $ 60,000. In addition, he sold his "old" car, which was only five years old, and pocketed the profit.
Everyone could look into the reports of the auditor Sanga and read in detail, how aid funds have disappeared in the swamp of corruption. For instance, if donors in Germany still believed, they would have financed an ambulance in the hospital of Bulongwa, the auditor could reply: "I live in Bulongwa and have never seen an ambulance at the hospital. Where is it hidden?"
Or take donations for biogas plants or school projects: According to the Sangas report, such funds were never received. Even already transferred funds for a medical procedure of the bishop had to be collected once again by the locals. Rayben Sanga has no doubt: The aid organizations of the church were not able to sufficiently monitor the projects and the fraud was apparently clearly recognizable. For instance, the persons responsible have charged numerous dubious payments under the entry "Christmas Cake". Even a German employee of the "Nordelbische Hilfswerk" has allegedly embezzled funds and her name frequently appears in the lists of deficiencies. According to the church, the woman has been forced into early retirement. However, no investigation has been initiated against her.
Manfred Scheckenbach is responsible in Bavaria for the projects of "Mission Eine Welt" in Tanzania. He talks a lot about partnership and equality, whenever the issue of cooperation with the African dioceses comes up. In the opinion of Scheckenbach, any paternalistic attitude should be avoided and patience is the key. He says, "We are a church and have relations with Tanzania for 60 years".
For Scheckenbach, development aid must be seen in the long run. Doctor Brandl and his public fight against corruption is regarded by him as agent provocateur and instigator. "He discovered corruption and went public. We wanted to discuss this internally in the church", Scheckenbach says. "Brandl wanted to remove the bishop from office. We have a different strategy in the church". The "Missionswerke" cannot be blamed. Indeed, an external investigation has confirmed, "that the charges of embezzlement are true", Scheckenbach says. "But we immediately stopped all payments." Meanwhile, the Persons responsible have been removed from office.
Proceedings against the persons responsible are pending, the priest says. However, no judgments have been issued yet. "This is still delayed with all possible legal tricks". In the meantime, the corrupt bishop has been voted out of office. Scheckenbach is of the opinion, that "we have acted consequent".
The fight against corruption should also be shouldered by the local municipalities, says Scheckenbach. Very soon, the Bavarian "Mission Eine Welt" will transfer money to Tanzania again. Receiver will be the new management of the diocese. Now, however, all moneys will be paid in installments only and everything will be audited and trusting that the Tanzanian partners intend to solve the problem.
His colleague Volker Schauer, "Nordelbisches Missionswerk": "Locally, we do not have complete control. We are also not interested in that." Aid to developing countries does not imply to act as a powerful financier. Shower says, "That is not our understanding of Christian cooperation. We are not the knights in shining armor".
Gottfried Mernyi has only limited sympathy for such justifications and describes this attitude a "false understanding of cooperation". Mernyi is the director of "Evangelischer Arbeitskreis für Weltmission" in Austria. Since the German aid organizations lack any willingness to fight corruption, the cooperation in Tanzania has ended, says Mernyi. "Nothing has been investigated voluntarily, everything happened only due to public pressure", so Mernyi. The aid organizations of the church from Germany had taken too long to demand an explanation from responsible parties of the Tanzanian partner church. Apparently there is a systematic approach to silence and conceal embezzlement by the clergy of the Tanzanian church.
Any person criticizing such conditions is charged with either paternalism or hostility against the church. The German aid organizations "knew, at the latest, since spring 2006 of such embezzlement cases, without any legal consequences", says Mernyi. The German officials of the mentioned organizations had to say the least fostered such criminal actions with their decision to deal with these issues only within the church. "The public in Tanzania and Germany and, in particular, the donors were not informed about the criminal actions and the scope of the systematic corruption", so Mernyi. In addition, the German aid organizations had refused to protest against the lockout of the doctor Brandl by police force, quoting internal political reasons.
The Member of the High Consistory
The whole thing is quite embarrassing to Michael Martin. The member of the High Consistory of the Bavarian national church says: "That is indeed a huge problem. We do have a responsibility towards the donors". However, corruption is an everyday occurrence in the development aid. Five bishops were removed from office in the past years in Tanzania due to mismanagement. "That is part of our continuous efforts", said Martin. For members of the clergy in Africa, it is "a giant temptation, when they suddenly receive project funds in the millions". Often, amounts are siphoned off in order to look after acquaintances.
In this concrete case, the decision was reached not to accuse the bishop of corruption in public. "Such an attack would have caused solidarity", so Martin. "We were counting on self-curing effects, so that people would have realized: He is ruling like a chieftain". Now, with the new management, "the aim is to find out how to get out of this corrupt swamp". One project is again managed by us, since the bishop only employed relatives. However, we should avoid aid paternalism. "Worlds collide, if we try to force our own ideas of aid", Martin says. "But we can not change the people to become Europeans."
Reinold Thiel is a founding member of "Transparency Deutschland" and worked for a long time in development aid. He knows the problems from own experience. Together with other experts from the development aid sector, he prepared a report about corruption in development aid and the specific problems of the various churches with their not very transparent structures. Thiel emphasizes, that the report has been prepared in collaboration with the churches and not against them. The churches agreed to discuss the report internally. But they rather not publish anything. Then, the report was published in the newspapers. That was the last straw for the churches. The main thing, according to Thiel, is the discussion of the issue. But this attitude made him not very popular with anybody.