Mogadishu (UM) – The Somali President and Prime Minister both promised to create and lead a government that delivers for the people. A memorable promise was that there will be no unnecessary travel by the President, Prime Minister and Ministers as they would spend most of their time working in Somalia for their people. Today, this has proven to be nothing more than an expensive soundbite.
Foreign travels are important for representing Somalia in international forums, strengthening ties and winning influence, resources and friends but the most recent trips by Somali Ministers are nothing short of personal holidays at the public’s expense. There are even reported allegations of Minister’s changing planes at the airport and been away for weeks on end without accountability.
Credit to him, the President has only recently attended necessary meetings, but the Prime Minister appears to have lost control of his Minister’s travels. There is formally a form all Ministers must fill seeking permission to leave on foreign trips from the State Minister of the Prime Minister’s office but a walk around Nairobi or a visit to any of its main hotels will soon highlight how ineffective this is. This is a wider reflection of the total mess and chaos that the Office of the Prime Minister has become and remains because of poor coordination and leadership despite the creation of a fancy but non-functioning Delivery Unit.
Minister’s are appointed to implement their portfolio for the Somali people and can make necessary foreign trips to support them in this objective. However, any amateur analysis of Ministerial travels will show that most of the trips of Somali Ministers are unnecessary and, in many cases, for private reasons while solely funded by limited public finances. In private conversations with senior civil servants, it is also understood that very few Minister’s bring back mission reports to follow up. Moreover, even where Minister’s attend international conferences and meetings, most of these are not mandatory and can easily be attended by civil servants within the Ministry saving the Minister valuable time and the taxpayer, huge costs.
The Somali Embassies which most Minister frequent like Nairobi have become nothing more than visa processing centres for Somali delegations led mainly by Minister’s attending questionable meetings or leaving for private foreign visits on diplomatic passports without the Prime Minister’s knowledge. This is a diplomatic embarrassment and a waste of the Embassies time as they ought to be focusing on building and strengthening bilateral relations not advising on passport photo sizes for different visas or where Ministers and senior officials can have unofficial meetings with foreign government officials and multilateral partners. The only way to deal with this damaging issue is to draft, release and enforce a travel policy that seeks to advance the interest of the Somali people by demanding accountability and value for money for all government travel. The questions ought to be clear: Where and Why are you going? What is the public benefit you will achieve and return with?
The Somali government already consumes everything it collects in domestic revenue. There is no development budget whatsoever to cushion the poverty and glaring public service needs of the people. The Somali people, paying their taxes from the tiny wages and incomes, should not be supporting the unnecessary and private travels of Ministers and senior officials. Holidays must be paid for privately!