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[afro-nets] The Issue of Use of Funds

  • Subject: [afro-nets] The Issue of Use of Funds
  • From: Peter Burgess <Profitinafrica@aol.com>
  • Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 00:27:58 EST
  • Cc:

The Issue of Use of Funds

Dear Dr. Piot and your management team, and colleagues inter-
ested in health and development,

I write this letter after seeing an article about funding no
longer going to be channeled to NGOs in several countries in
Southern Africa:

The article suggested that the NGOs are not accounting well for
the use of funds and that having the government channel all the
money would be better.

The issue of development fund flows and the use of funds in de-
velopment and in humanitarian programs is one that has been of
interest to me for many years. And while there is lots of "talk"
about the issue of poor accounting, little has been done in the
past several decades to solve the problem.

There is a need for basic accounting which is very easy. But it
requires management leadership which has proven difficult. There
is no need for a computer to do good basic accounting. Good ac-
counting starts off with "lists" that show all the financial
transactions, and these are easily done on paper in books. These
used to be called journals and ledgers, and it was considered
good practice to have them in bound books so that the papers
would not easily be fraudulently replaced. In the good old days
it was normal for every postage stamp to be accounted for!

Now we have computers and lots and lots more education, and we
have no accounts. There is something wrong with this picture.
Management is not doing its job. The development experts have
priorities wrong.

Please let us start to put on the record some of the information
that we have. Some organizations are doing very good accounting
and know what they are doing. Some organizations have no idea
what resources they have received and how they have been used.
Let's get this information on the record so that we do not lump
every organization into the "bad" group when some are doing very

And let's get a bit beyond the idea that a correctly signed
voucher means that the money is well used. It is time we started
to know what sort of benefits we get from the money that is

There is all sorts of talk about lack of accounting. Please let
us make a start to doing good accounting, and let's set the
stage for excellence in this dimension of development. AfriFund
is prepared to help by hosting an Open Access database of infor-
mation about development issues and related development manage-
ment information. Simply put, we aim to know which organizations
use resources well and those which do not. The same for ODA pro-
jects. It is time that a major effort to understand all the fund
flows in development and the related benefits that are derived
from good use of funds.


Peter Burgess
AfriFund in New York
Tel: +1-212 772 6918