Somalia: Auditor General orders broke government to cut down on expenditure
MOGADISHU, Somalia | Somalia's government ought to cut down costs incurred in several departments; Auditor General Mohamed Ali Afgoe has warned, in yet another fiscal strategy aimed at increasing financial fortunes of the Horn of Africa nation, which is entangled in a host of challenges.
For decades, Mogadishu, which is yet to have a stable government, has been depending on the international community almost entirely for financial survival, given low-income levels generated from domestic taxes. The country has been laying down strategies for improving local revenue for a while.
In a statement that seemingly hints at the possible financial downturn in government, the Auditor General, through his office, instructed Finance Minister Abdirahman Baileh to immediately reduce percentages of government expenditures by lessening costs incurred by some agencies and also placing a moratorium on the costs of specific institutions.
This is one of the significant red flags in terms of Somalia's fiscal spending, which comes when the country is headed for elections. The international partners, including the United States, are footing bills for the polls to push for stability in the country.
Due to the budget deficit, the allocations to the chamber of commerce and the Development Bank of Commerce were put on a moratorium. In contrast, the Central Bank of Somalia's budget was lessened by 0.5 percentage, in the latest strategy to reduce spending and wastage in government.
Also, the Banadir Regional Administration, which hosts the capital Mogadishu, had its budget reduced by 10 percent over the same budget deficit reasons. It's the first time the Auditor General is raising serious concerns about government spending.
Previously, the office had recommended the prosecution of senior government officials over theft of government money, with the most recent being in 2020, when several officers in Finance and Health Ministry were charged in court. A number of them were imprisoned for stealing donor money.
But despite the goodwill in fighting graft in government, Somalia is ranked as one of the countries where corruption has almost been "normalized" by government institutions. Several donors reduced funding to the country as a move to pave the way for tangible accountability reforms.
Funding for the Somali National Army [SNA] was almost stopped by the US, which had to delay until biometric screening for all officers was done. The US had alleged that top generals were paying ghost soldiers for their selfish gains.
Early this year, Baileh, who has been in the frontline pushing for debt relief for Somalia, openly asked for Somalis in the diaspora to contribute funds for critical government works. An online kitty was established to solve the impasse even as the finance boss admitted a financial crisis in the country.
Local revenues have been dwindling over time due to opaqueness in government operations, including but not limited to the lack of digital revenue collection mechanics. Further, the Al-Shabaab militants have been seizing key towns to generate more revenue than the government.
The country over-relies on foreign aid, something which triggers deficits due to disbursement delays. On development, international partners, Turkey, Qatar, the US, and even China, have been helping the government directly and, at times, indirectly.