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UN report cites massive corruption in Somali gov't

By Jason Straziuso
Associated Press / July 16, 2012
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NAIROBI, Kenya—A scathing report written for the U.N. Security Council says that systematic misappropriation, embezzlement and outright theft of taxpayer funds have become a system of governance in Somalia.

The nearly 200-page report lists numerous examples of money intended for Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) going missing, saying that for every $10 received, $7 never made it into state coffers.

The report, written by the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea and obtained by The Associated Press Monday, says government revenues aren't even clear: The Ministry of Finance reported revenues of $72 million in fiscal year 2011, while the accountant general reported revenues of $55 million.

A report commissioned by the World Bank published in May similarly found that 68 percent of TFG revenues in 2009-10 were unaccounted for.

"The Monitoring Group's own investigations confirmed the involvement of senior TFG officials in the misappropriation of millions of dollars of domestic revenues and foreign aid," it said.

The report further said that the political will to enact reforms "is lacking in the highest echelons of government."

"Nothing gets done in this government without someone asking the question ... `What's in it for me?'" the report quoted a senior government official as saying.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali condemned the allegations linking his office to corruption, calling the allegations "absolutely and demonstrably false."

Corruption has flourished inside the Somali government for years.

Somalia hasn't had a fully functioning government since 1991. Armed militias have claimed power in Mogadishu until last August, when African Union and Somali government troops pushed the radical Islamist al-Shabab militant group out of the capital.

The weak, U.N.-backed government barely operates outside of Mogadishu. Its U.N. mandate expires Aug. 20, and the international community is working with Somali leaders to appoint a new parliament and elect a new president before then.

Because the government was not voted in by Somali citizens, the public has only few mechanisms to hold officials to account for misused funds. The U.N. hopes to transition the country to a more representative form of government, but nationwide or even regional elections appear to be years away.

Somali leaders are finalizing a council of elders and powerbrokers that is tasked with naming a new parliament within the next month. That parliament will then vote on a new president.

The monitoring group report noted that some current Somali leaders are calling for an extension of the U.N. mandate, which it said is symptomatic of "perverse corruption and the wholesale misappropriation of public financial resources." The TFG's mandate originally expired last August, but the U.N. granted a one-year extension.

The report said that some government officials have tried to introduce greater transparency and accountability into the government's finances, but that the political will to enact reforms does not exist in the highest ranks of government.

The famine in Somalia last year -- which killed an estimated 100,000 people -- was also not immune to corruption. The report said government officials and militias acted as gatekeepers in camps that held tens of thousands of internally displaced Somalis, diverting assistance and preventing an effective aid monitoring, the report said.

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