Parliamentary Finance Committee not “trustworthy”

Parliamentary Finance Committee. File photo: Google

Mogadishu (UM) – This week the Parliamentary Finance Committee accused the Ministry of Finance and the Banadir Regional Administration of large scale misappropriation in a 14 page report. The report alleged that alongside misappropriation, the Ministry failed to collect enough legitimate taxes from big businesses while seeking to gain taxes illegally from others. The Minister of Finance Abdirahman Duale Beileh responded by denying these allegations and reassuring the public that he has evidence to counter all the allegations made by the Committee.

UM interviewed many people in Mogadishu about this report and most agreed it could be damaging if it is true.

“It is scary when you read it but the report looks exaggerated and has little evidence. When you make such big claims of corruption you need to convince the people with evidence,” said Ibrahim Maalin, an accountant.

“The report is definitely written with a bad intention and the facts do not match what the international community is saying about the changes in our finances,” said Nur Isse, a small business owner. “I paid taxes this year so it is hard to believe the government is not collecting taxes.”

Many interviewed felt that the claim of $20 million Saudi budget support disappering was not very believable but that the Ministry of Finance had to account for it. All agreed that Public Financial Management had improved significantly with this government.

“Minister Beileh is a professional and he is open with the public. He is trusted to manage the finances of Somalia more than all those before him. He should just respond by providing a report or receipt showing where this money is or went,” said a student who did not want to be named. “Minister Beileh has many enemies because he is changing the system but he needs to fight on.”

“I was convinced by Minister Beileh’s interviews over the last few days on BBC, VOA and SNTV. He just needs to bring the evidence for the $20 million Saudi Money,” said Nasteeha Aden, an economic researcher.

When asked who they trusted more, the Ministry of Finance or the Parliamentary Finance Committee, all respondents said the Ministry. Most argued that the Committee was heavily ill informed, underqualified for their task and very politicised. Most even pointed to the fact that some of the members on the Committee have themselves been accused of corruption by the UN Monitoring Group.

“The Committee has some qualified people but most are unqualified in public finances and governance and they mainly are opposition figures. We cannot take them seriously in defending the public interest,” said Farah Muhudin a finance lecturer at a local university. “Some in the Committee are accussed of embezzling public land and need to be investigated by the Auditor General themselves.”

Most interviewed the timing of the report and its legality. Senior members of Parliament UM spoke to felt that this report was another attempt by the opposition to cause a crisis to bring a Motion of No Confidence against the Prime Minister.

“All this government has is finance because everything else is a failure and the opposition know this. Beileh is soft but he did well to defend himself on the radio against the report. Now the government must finish the job in Parliament,” said a pro-government MP who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The Prime Minister was nervous since the report was released but he needs to give Beileh space to defend himself because he has more credibility in finance than him. He is also not so politicised like the Prime Minister who people see as micro-managing the Ministry of Finance with Beileh.”

Some interviewed felt that the Minister of Finance made an error by not sacking the Accountant General who falsely accused him of corruption in a leaked letter. They agreed that her contribution to the Committee’s report is most likely biased and misleading.

“Beileh must wake up to his enemies all surrounding him because he is not fighting them off. This is Somalia and he cannot act like he is in Washington. The Accountant General I know has no qualifications and experience for the role yet she is playing a key role in public finances and supporting politicised opposition claims,” said a former Central Bank employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Many interviewed agreed that Minister Beileh must counter the Committee’s claims of corruption with facts. UM understands that the Minister will be before Parliament next week to discuss the matter from Ministry of Finance sources.