Rush to Judgment and the Distortion of Facts: Reading the Monitoring Groups’ ReportJuly 18, 2012 // News in English, Warar Somaali
The recently leaked [confidential] report prepared by the Somalia-Eretria Monitoring Group (SEMG) represented an opportunistic and propaganda feast for some of Somalia’s fledgling media groups, whose major attributes include the lack of ethics and professional management. In that regard, these media groups, call them propaganda organs for sectarian political objectives, wasted no time to distort some of the facts and feasted on them like a vulture does on a carcass. Some of the follow up pull backs by some of these media groups in 20-20 hindsight is no consolation.
The SEMG report which is prepared under the watch of Mr.Matt Bryden carries some needed information and reportage on Somalia’s run-away culture of corruption. Unconfirmed reports suggest that a second companion report distributed to donor countries and to the US State Department calls for the indictment of three Somalis who refused to cooperate with the investigation.. These three individuals reportedly include the sitting President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Khadija Osoble, a lady whose name appears in various similar reports since 2006, and the former Minister for information, Mr. Abdikarim Jama, a known leader of the Ala Shiek sect, who served former Prime Minister Mohamed Farmajo. Both Ms. Osoble and Mr. Jama enjoy close relationship with the sitting president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and seem to have a long wrap sheet of corruption accusations.
President Sheik Sharif Ahmed hastily dispatched Mohamed Ali “Americo”, Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya and a close confidante of the President, to New York to speak with UN officials who cut the pay checks for Mr. Matt Bryden and his group. The message Mr. Americo would deliver is reported to be a stern denial of the Monitoring Group’s assessment on many issues, including President Ahmed handing Somalia’s passport to Al Shabab groups. The President has always maintained that some of the BIG monies that the SEMG reports as un accounted funds never reached the hands of Somalis. This assertion indeed has some merit and the SEMG assessment should have given the Somali people some sort of closure on this issue. Without any answer on the big picture, it could as well be the” lords of poverty” to which club the SEMG royally belongs is a culprit in this.
Although the conclusion that Mr. Bryden and his team reached could be a subject for a juicy talk of the town, particularly around the water coolers in the offices of several capital cities and Non-Governmental Organization’s Headquarters, the organization of the report and some of the references it utilizes to reach multiple indicting conclusions are at times trivial and hearsay. For example, in one of only two entries that concerns the sitting Prime Minister, the report maintains that its information regarding the expenditure of about $120,700 at the Prime Minister’s office came from an unidentified “TFG official”. Quoting unidentified source is also promoted in the methodology section of the report as a major tool to gather information. That is utterly nonsense!
Moreover, in today’s Somalia, such a reference, especially when one is compiling such a report in an election season, definitely casts a blanketing shadow on the professionalism of the report. The second of two entries where the report (an overwhelming 450 pages report) mentions the role of the sitting Prime Minister (Dr. Abdiwali Ali) is in association with some alleged permit processing activities at the Mogadishu port. The report reads the following:
“30. Both the Ministry of Finance and the OAG provide poor quality reporting of TFG expenses. Not all expenses are registered, and the Monitoring Group has obtained evidence demonstrating how the Office of the President and successive Prime Ministers send letters to custom authorities requesting import tax exemptions for individual or companies that have provided services or goods to the TFG..”
In a response letter from Prime Minister Abdiwali’s office posted by WardheernNews on July 16, 2012, his office categorically denied any allegation in this matter in that his office never issued “tax exemption letters on behalf of individuals or companies under false pretenses.”
But even if either the Prime Minister or any other executive officer, including the President were to issue letters of exception to deviate from an existing protocol, that does not necessarily constitute corruption activity. As a practicing official with the City of Los Angeles, who makes and signs decision letters to the tune of millions of dollars on a regular basis, issuing exception letters under certain circumstances is not that uncommon. Rather, it is a common practice to issue such types of exceptions (or rather exemptions from the process) when one is seeking the promotion of “business friendly environment” in an otherwise cumbersome bureaucratic system where the culture of red tape suffocates the business environment.
To say the least, the Prime Minister’s refusal to endorse the printing of over $150 million at a time when the country’s politicians are gearing up for the August election is all the more a sign of his commitment to transparency and good governance. The report writes: “26. Despite concerns expressed by donors and the World Bank, and the resignation of the Governor of the Somali Central Bank over the scheme, senior TFG officials remained committed to the project. In March 2012, President Sharif visited Khartoum to assess progress. However, in June 2012, Prime Minister Abdiweli Gaas told the Monitoring Group that the introduction of the new currency had been suspended indefinitely (see also Annex 1.3.).” This was an official way where the Prime Minister distanced himself from the business of printing such notes