By Liban Ahmad
Corruption from which a large number of Somali political leaders benefit has made Somalia the most corrupted country in 2015. Since the country has a government barely comparable institutionally to other countries’ governments in the Corruption Perception Index, it is hard for Somalis to agree on combating corruption but it is not impossible to work out strategies to fight it.
Post-1990 politics have barricaded Somalis in clan fiefdoms. The upside to this trend is that certain parts of Somalia have managed to respond to challenges thrown up by the collapse of the state and the centrally planned economy. Businesses and educational institutions have flourished in those areas. The downside, which if left to fester can undo this progress, is the influence of corrupted politicians whose immediate families and hangers-on misappropriate resources acquired either through tax revenues or development aid. As there is no political agreement on discouraging theft of public resources, self-enrichment through corruption takes precedence over sharing of meager public resources equitably, planning to respond to recurrent droughts, river floods and other emergencies. People’s indifference to corruption forges a close relationship between rent-seeking business people and politicians. This unholy alliance results in an unbreakable cycle of poverty and instability. There is a consensus that corruption, rather than religious extremism, is the bane in Somali political landscape. This consensus undermines the international community’s engagement with Somalia based on the rationale to help Somalia to fight transnational terrorism exemplified by Al-Shabaab and ISIS.
At the federal level combating fraud is impossible without the input of the international community. Federal government institutions are less developed and almost incorrigibly susceptible to manipulation by infighting leaders. That is why all agreements the federal government signed since 2013 have not translated into tangible achievements. Although the centrally planned economy of pre-1991 military government disappeared, planners’ mentality has survived in the new centers of power, where the powers that be are still able to bribe politicians into silence.
There is a need to form a nationwide, anti-corruption movement premised on the principle of equality and accountability. At the grassroots level, it will campaign against corrupt politicians and share successful practices on a fight against all forms of corruption. Federal States should take a lead in the anti-corruption campaign. Puntland ought to publish data on how the tax on imported goods is spent; how local governments are funded as well as data on fishing licenses awarded to foreign companies since 1998 by successive Puntland governments. The disclosure of this data will enable independent researchers to figure out whether fishing licenses were undersold, and how money paid by foreign trawlers to Puntland is used. The recent landmark study on corruption in public procurement unveiled by Puntland State University in Garowe grabbed the attention of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), which launched investigation into allegations about misuse of project funds. Somaliland government has yet to submit itself to the scrutiny of a third, impartial party beyond accusations by rival political parties.
In Somaliland where government institutions are older and comparatively more mature, information worthy of disclosure, ranges from data on how development aid from donor countries and NGOS from the Gulf is distributed to how tax on imported goods, livestock exports and sales tax are spent. All those measures are necessary to reverse the trend of self-imposed underdevelopment, unequal spending on public services in districts, towns and rural areas, rampant cronyism, youth unemployment and embezzlement particularly in parts of Somalia that enjoyed relative peace unenforced by foreign troops.
A campaign against corruption in Somalia will stand a better chance of success if it began in regions and districts where clan loyalty is the less conspicuous catalyst for corruption and embedded unaccountability in Somalia’s budding but fragile institutions.