Editorial: Too early for a reshuffle – UM

Somali cabinet meeting - Mogadishu, Somalia

Mogadishu (UM) – The talk of a reshuffle in Mogadishu has been spreading like a wild bush fire among the political classes. The speculations of which Minister will be axed and who will survive are rife as each supposed pundit guesses in the hope of been proven right by a sudden reshuffle. Whether this will happen or not nobody knows yet but if it were to occur, there could be damaging consequences for this infant administration.

The Government of President Farmaajo, led by Prime Minister Kheyre, has so far kept together quiet well despite the many challenges it has faced and continues to experience.

This not a natural cohesion and there are no star Ministerial performers which the Government can boast of. Of course, there are Ministers who are trying their best but most are falling short of both public and governmental expectations.

To be a Minister in anywhere in the world is a privilege to serve one’s people. However, in Somalia Ministers are expected to deliver miracles with limited resources, constant external interference and a disjointed and adversarial internal political process. Yet, every opportunity, more people apply to this position than can be awarded and because of the high turnover of Ministers, it is fondly referred to as a “Summer job” by the public.

Prime Minister Kheyre did the right thing by agreeing work schemes and the first 100 days deliverables with all Ministers but this accountability has now been side-lined by political firefighting to avert different crisis starting with Qalbi-Dhagaax and more personally, a potential Parliamentary motion against his own Government which he survived.
Given the many challenges in security and the slow progress of the Government’s ambitious legislative agenda, it is right for the Prime Minister to consider how to improve Government performance. This is his primary duty but performance cannot be realised with resources, patience, guidance and leadership.
Instead of allowing destabilising rumours of a potential reshuffle to continue, the Prime Minister will do better to focus on overseeing the work of his Minister’s by establishing an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism which will hold Minister’s and senior public servants to account. The Prime Minister must not see himself as the Master but the chief public servant leading the Cabinet in their efforts to transform Somalia by fulfilling their individual mandates.

The Prime Minister must role up his sleeves, think with his Cabinet members and play a significant role in supervising the implementation of agreed policies. There is much excited discussion of a Delivery Unit to do just this but this must move on from idle chatter to reality. Even where the Unit is established, it must be staffed by the most qualified who are able to devise innovative solutions to overcome the implementation deficit.
Reshuffling their Cabinet is the right of every Somali Prime Minister but the current cohort of Ministers must be given the opportunity to learn, understand and execute their portfolios. There will always be political pressure from Parliamentarians and some clan elders for a reshuffle for obvious reasons but bowing to this will only weaken the Government and undermine its own mandate.
There will always be those Minister who will either breach the codes of conduct or who are so hopelessly incompetent and must be replaced.

This would be a most welcome move by the Prime Minister in these situations but the necessary performance review mechanism must first be established and all Ministers must be fairly appraised regularly.

The job of all Minister is made much more difficult by the lack of qualified civil servants and the absence of institutional memory. If Somalia is to have stable politics and effective institutions, the civil service must also be reformed urgently with a focus on performance and quality rather than how many of one tribal family work in a Ministry. The importance of the tribal headcount over competence in Ministries is crippling policy implementation.

The rumours of a reshuffle must be silenced with a new plan for appraising Ministerial deliverables against agreed work plans by the Prime Minister. Under-performance, like everywhere else, is not acceptable but neither is premature reshuffles which will send the Government’s legislative agenda back months if not years. The promise of Nabad and Nolol needs consistency, leadership, partnership and a new direction. A hasty reshuffle will not bring these about.