“In our department we buy twenty five boxes of mineral water every month,” says the procurement official for the Sports Ministry in Bamako, Mali. “In the shop you pay the equivalent of two-hundred and fifty dollars for that quantity. But we pay double that, about US$ 500.” Where the other half of the five hundred dollar goes? To ‘anonymous middlemen,’ is the routinely given answer to anyone who asks questions about Mali’s opaque state expenditure processes. In this case: to distributors operating for the water empire of one of the most powerful businessmen in the country, Cyril Achcar.
Two hundred and fifty dollars may not seem much. But counted over a year it adds up to three thousand dollars, and multiplied by Mali’s thirty government departments in the capital