Beileh must fight back against Finance Committee claims with facts  – UM

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The Parliamentary Finance Committee released a damaging report this week alleging the Ministry of Finance mismanagement of funds and misappropriation of $20 million dollars. Minister of Finance rebukes the committee's report calling it untrue and lacking clear evidence. Photo: via Twitter

Mogadishu ( UM) – The Parliamentary Finance Committee has made damaging allegations against the Ministry of Finance including the misappropriation of $20 million dollars of budgetary support from Saudi Arabia in 2017. In a defiant response, Minister of Finance Abdirahman Duale Beileh denied all these charges in interviews and even sent a veiled message over twitter to the Parliamentary Finance Committee urging them to act in the public interest and not spread unfounded allegations. The drama has cooled off for now but it is likely to spark again as the government and opposition seek to frustrate each other over the 2019 budget in Parliament over the coming weeks.

The Ministry of Finance is the jewel in the crown of the government administered by Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and led by President Farmaajo. Successful financial reforms, guided by the IMF SMP Program, and supported by the international community have provided political breathing space for an administration which is struggling with security, inclusive politics, foreign policy and providing basic public services to the people. In all stories of their success the Prime Minister and President focus on financial reforms. Their messages are: we paid salaries, running costs and the world sees us as credible and less corrupt. It is easy to imagine the pressure on the poor Minister of Finance who appears to have become the single hope for any policy success for the whole government. The Prime Minister is in his office almost weekly and the World Bank seems to have an office within his office from all the visits that are posted on the Minister’s twitter pages and the presence of their external auditors, Abyrint. Minister Beileh has become the star soldier in a weakened political army led by two generals with totally different styles. No wonder then, the opposition have chosen to focus their limited resources on undermining the Ministry of Finance and Beileh to hurt the government.

The Parliamentary Finance Committee is full of inexperienced new MPs and members of the old guard with poor reputation for honesty and integrity. Many of them are openly members of the opposition and their intentions can be translated as nothing other than political. Their report which was not shared with the Ministry of Finance made allegations which they could have easily resolved through a meeting with the Minister. The conduct of the Committee was very unprofessional and damaged the national interest for insignificant media attention which backfired after Minister Beileh responded over the airwaves. The Committee’s report reached the Minister through a friend according to him and this only shows the level of carelessness for procedure and the protection of the national interest at this time of global scrutiny of Somalia’s financial institutions and policies. Minister Beileh has already responded in part but now he needs to challenge the Finance Committee on their report with the facts in front of Parliament.

If the facts are that the Finance Committee’s report is politicized and therefore, an act of sabotage against the national interest, Parliamentary leaders and MPs must address the issue of the Committee’s actions quickly. Minister Beileh must mobilize Parliament against the Finance Committee’s actions by accounting for the Saudi Funds they claimed were misappropriated. This is among the most serious allegations that can damage public confidence and donor trust. He must address the other allegations in the same manner with a view to limiting the damage the report caused through its many assertions with the available facts and policy explanations.

The Ministry of Finance has received no public support from either the Prime Minister or the President and this is in line with their populist policies of supporting the winner in any dispute. His Accountant General Fadumo Osman appears to have briefed the Committee against Beileh whom she accused of corruption in a leaked letter to the media a few weeks ago. However, the Ministry of Finance is the only Ministry that really functions in Somalia and Beileh must defend it and himself with facts. He must not rely on the Prime Minister or President coming to his rescue; he must do it in partnership with his fellow responsible MPs and with the facts.