An Australian investigative journalist, Rory Callinan, has reported that nine Australian mining companies, including companies with a presence in Malawi, are able to finance aid projects under their corporate social responsibility activities with money acquired from Australian tax payers.
In his article, “Firms use tax money for aid projects“, Callinan explains that Paladin Energy, Globe Metals and Mining and Intra Energy Corporation are among the companies that have received money through the Australian Foreign Affairs Department’s Direct Aid Programme. This programme allows heads of missions to give up to AUD 30,000 (approx. USD 31,000) to local causes.
According to the article, Paladin was linked to a funding application in 2012 through its employees’ charity, Friends and Employees of Paladin for African Children. The Lilongwe-based Greg Walker, international affairs manager for Paladin Africa and Australia’s honorary consul to Malawi, was involved in the process.
Globe Metals and Mining received AUD 29,000 from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2012 to enable the company to install a Sure Chill® solar-powered vaccine fridge at the Etandweni Health Post, Mzimba, Malawi. The health post has been supported by the company since the end of 2011.
Watchdogs have expressed concern about the government’s bankrolling of companies’ corporate social responsibility projects. Callinan writes,
The Aidwatch director Thulsi Narayanasamy said it was not the place of the Australian aid program to fund the corporate social responsibility programs of wealthy mining companies.
The Mineral Policy Institute’s executive director, Charles Roche, said the programs created a conflict of interest with aid linked to the mining proposal rather than the fact it was coming from Australia.
These claims were rebutted by the Australian Foreign Affairs Department, arguing it is in everyone’s interests to encourage companies to operate more responsibly. Several companies highlighted that the funding complemented the amounts they already spend on corporate responsibility activities.