(This is the first in a series of posts around a single story and event)
In 2010, millions of Kwacha worth of funds went missing from a Water and Sanitation project in Malawi. The project funds were supposed to be used by the local government to improve the lives of rural Malawians, at the same time as giving the district officers experience that would improve their ability to plan, manage, and implement activities within the District.
I arrived in that same District a fair bit of time after the scandal was uncovered, and heard every possible version of who was responsible, yet nothing had been confirmed, and nothing had been done about it by any authority in Malawi.
I played my role in the district, helping them to develop systems for monitoring the current water and sanitation infrastructure in the district, and for making decisions on the allocation of new infrastructure and activities. Also assisting to coordinate NGO activities with the District Council.
Progress was slow, and I often had to keep myself busy with work internal to the EWB team, or through the continual planning and reflection on the best way to move things forward through the District’s own processes and initiative.
I plowed through working most closely with two officers that the District decided would be the most appropriate people to work with. I worked to guide them and teach them small skills, provide assistance however I could in any of their work , develop trust, build good relationships with them, and also just enjoyed getting to know them as my friends and colleagues. All while trying to motivate and get them to take action on all the issues that they themselves had recognized and wanted to fix in their work.
After 6 months it was decided that the work could be continued without my full-time presence in the District, and that most of my time could be better used on other initiatives.
In the last month before I left, a high level government audit was finally called to uncover what had actually happened with the huge amount of missing funds, and to hopefully initiate some kind of action. I tried to keep up with whatever news on the audit’s progress and findings, and just before I left, the suspected results were very upsetting, and very serious…
Read the next post to get the continuation of the story…