Friday, July 20, 2012
With barely a month to go before Somalia exits the transitional federal government system, set to expire on August 20th is plagued by embarrassment and uncertainty due to the recently leaked report by the UN Monitoring Group. The report alleges that funds allocated for development and reconstruction are unaccounted for and most likely disappeared into the deep pockets of the highest echelons of the government officials in which “out of every US$10 received by the TFG in 2009-10, US$7 never made it into state coffers. In 2011, almost one quarter of total TFG expenditure (over US$12 million) was absorbed by the offices of the three top leaders -- the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament.” This is really a startling report that further complicates things, not to mention dampening the morale of many Somalis who finally thought the country was turning a corner and better days were ahead. For Somalia, the main challenges can be broken down into security, poverty alleviation and governance. Though some headways have been made on the security front lately, but the last two interlinked challenges have proven to be so intractable that they threaten the very existence of the country.
In 2011, President, Speaker of Parliament and PM offices spent more than US$12.6 million, representing almost quater of total TFG expenditure
This damning UN report follows on the heels of last year’s World Bank report that also alleged President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and the Parliamentary Speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden “misplaced $120m in aid money from 2009 to 2010.” The pattern is eerily familiar, abundant cash money donated by Middle Eastern Gulf States are diverted into personal accounts, while unscrupulous business deals are cut with shady characters. To illustrate the pervasiveness of the corruption in the country, the UN Monitoring Group’s report coins a new phrase “What's in it for me?” This rare slip quoted from a senior Somali government official involved in the transitional government's finances who was describing the blatant corruptive attitude of most of these fraudulent officials by saying, “Nothing gets done in this government without someone asking the question: “What's in it for me?” As usual, the TFG leadership tried to counteract the damaging report as "unsubstantiated allegations" and full of conspiracy concocted by Matt Bryden, coordinator of the Monitoring Group, whose sole intention is to “divide the country.” Despite the categorical repudiation of the alleged corruption charges detailed in the UN report by the President, the Prime Minister and the PM Speaker, however, it is no longer enough to claim innocence but necessary to prove themselves above suspicion with “robust rebuttal,” as counseled them by the UN's special representative to Somalia, Mr. Augustine Mahiga.
Further, the report alleges, “The principal impediments to security and stabilization in southern Somalia are the Transitional Federal Government leadership’s lack of vision or cohesion, its endemic corruption and its failure to advance the political process.” The striking thing about this report is how widespread is the corruption in all government levels. It is particularly unfortunate that the most educated and enlightened Somalis from the Diaspora who promised transparency and good governance, but their legacy now turns out anything but. Reading the report makes one cringe and lose all hope on future Somali leadership. In some ways, the timing of this report is crucial for the ongoing complex process of adopting a new constitution and electing a new government in Somalia. In other words, all parties involved in electing a new parliament and a new president may very well need to treat the MP and eventually presidential selection very differently from the past elections. Since the solution to the problem of corruption is closely tied to bad leadership could only be resolved through conscious efforts in regards of the government and the governed. Thus, the upcoming MP and presidential elections should not be guided as much by nepotism as by bribery but rather qualifications and clear vision that entail a genuine presidential job description. It is important for instance, that the bubbling number of presidential candidates is cut down to no more than ten candidates worthy of the country’s colossal challenges. In fact, most of these candidates lack a clear agenda to lead the country out of the current quagmire. Despite much boasting of higher education qualifications, most of these candidates lack the necessary skills for presidential caliber. Each candidate should be required to provide unequivocal vision for the top job.
More strikingly is how the UN Monitoring Group’s report shines a light on the lack of trust between Somalia’s war weary populace and the alleged lords of corruption whose debauchery defies all morals of leadership especially in the feeble economy of the country. Fixing that slipping trust will require genuine efforts of confidence building in the next government. But this does not mean it is unfeasible.
Heikal I. Kenneded