Thursday, October 22, 2020

Uncertainty over $1 billion as Farmaajo gov’t fails to submit budget reports for 3 years

By Goobjoog News Team

Parliament has audited the expenditure of only one financial year since the current administration came into being in 2017 and with 2020 almost wrapping up, Somalis may not be able to know how President Mohamed Farmaajo spent one billion dollars approved by parliament in the last three years.

Goobjoog News can authoritatively report that the Finance Committee of the Lower House has only audited the 2017 expenditure-the first year of Farmaajo’s tenure in office and is yet to receive reports of 2018, 2019, and 2020 financial years from the Finance Minister.

According to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and House Standing Orders, the Finance Minister must submit reports of expenditure latest June 30 every year to allow the House to conduct its audit and make public the report.

According to Professor Yahya Aamir, both the Executive and the Lower House share the blame. “This is an illegality which was left to persist,” Professor Aamir told Goobjoog News. For Professor Aamir, Parliament had both the carrot and stick at its disposal but failed to make any good use of them. “Parliament should have denied the Executive money in the subsequent financial years until it submitted the reports.”

COMMITTEE DISBANDED

The only time Finance Minister Abdurahman Beileh presented the report to the House was in October 2018, some four months late. A report from the Finance Committee put on the defence the Minister, Accountant General and Auditor General following allegations of misused funds in the upwards of $20 million. The three however rubbished the report and in days, the committee was disbanded.

The developments happened at a time the Lower House was at its lowest amid accusations of doing the bidding for the executive. The move to bring the Lower House to submission thanks to the removal of then outspoken speaker Mohamed Jawaari in April 2018 left the 275-member chamber almost neutered with very few MP standing up against the Executive as Farmaajo and then PM Hassan Khaire went on a raid installing a number of MPs as Ministers and Assistants.

The 2018 national budget stood at $275 million while in 2019, parliament approved $344 million. In the financial year 2020, Finance Minister got the nod to spend $459.5 million which is an addition of more than $100 million from the previous year.

NO ACCOUNTABILITY

These figures combined add up to $1.1 billion. Of concern to Somalis and the donor community is the accountability for these funds in a country that has perennially been singled out as the most corrupt in the globe. According to the PFMA and the Lower House Standing Orders, the 2020 budget report ought to have been tabled in parliament by June.

To put this into context, Parliament is the only public body that can hold accountable the executive in the management of funds. The anti-corruption commission, human rights commission, and the office of the ombudsman, all of which are critical in providing checks and balances on the state organs are yet to come into being close to ten years since the Provisional Constitution was adopted by parliament.

The Auditor General’s office lacks independence and as currently constituted does not meet the constitutional threshold as it is not anchored in law. The National Audit Law passed by the Upper House in February leaves the appointment and dismissal of the Auditor General to the president and cabinet locking out parliamentary oversight.

Farmaajo has slightly over four months in office and has virtually spent all the monies allocated to his administration by parliament. As lawmakers spare their energies for re-election, Somalis and the donor community may have to wait for longer-on the 12th parliament to know how President Farmaajo spent over $1 billion.

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