The Ugly Truth Behind the Dismissal of the Finance Minister

The abrupt dismissal of Somalia’s Finance Minister Dr. Elmi Mohamed Nur one day after being pressured to reinstate two subordinates closely linked to the President has sent shock waves through the federal administration. The two senior officials were suspended by the minister two days before his own dismissal.

On July 6, through a circular shared with the public, the minister relieved the Accountant General and Director General of Revenue from their duties in the ministry after what appeared to be the result of a latent disagreement over public fund control that spilled over.

Let’s look at some questions that many citizens ask themselves.

Who are the men and what are they accused of?

According to the circular, the Account General, Mohamed Abdirahman Anas, has overstepped his mandate as he is not an authorized officer as stipulated in the General Finance Act of 2019 to take over or move funds. Moreover, he deliberately shut down the Somalia Financial Management System (SFMIS) delaying the payment of government expenditures and salaries of civil servants and public officials.

The Director General of Revenue, Faysal Mohamed Hashi, has been accused of disruptive behavior and insubordination since he defied a ministerial circular by preventing a new acting Director of Inland Revenue from taking office, with the former director facing corruption charges. His action disrupted state revenues by paralyzing the proper functioning of tax collection activities.

According to a source close to the minister, he first approached the president, who told him that he would settle the matter and a suspension was unnecessary. But the Prime Minister had later encouraged him to go ahead with the suspension.

Why are the culprits important to the president?

Both officials are highly esteemed by the president and considered untouchable. Prior to his political career, President Hassan Sheikh was their direct mentor as the head of SIMAD University, a private institution owned by his politico-religious society called Damuljadid.

In addition to being SIMAD alumni, they are both members of Damuljadid and active in the financial sector. Anas, for example, was a Premier Bank executive before following his mentor into politics. Hassan Sheikh owns shares in this bank which is a major recruiter of former SIMAD graduates.

The two men channeled part of the tax collection to Villa Somalia from where the strings are pulled and the shutting down of the SFMIS would be crucial to cover up the embezzlement. Worse, other allegations about their actions which consist in developing a financial system parallel to the SFMIS, in which one of the president’s sons is involved.

Why is SFMIS important?

Indeed, the president would have signified earlier to the deposed minister his dissatisfaction with the transparency of the SFMIS, of which all the financial transactions of the government would be visible even to the IMF and the World Bank.

The SFMIS system at the heart of the conflict manages a range of government financial transactions, including budgets, assets, revenues, debt, payroll, contracts and expenditures for 70 ministries, departments and agencies.

It was streamlined by Dr. Abdirahman Beyle, the former Minister of Finance, in collaboration with international financial institutions. SFMIS is recognized for the sound financial management of the previous administration led by Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and the main key to the debt relief program that Somalia launched 6 years ago.

Thanks to this SFMIS, Somalia has increased its tax revenue, put an end to institutional corruption and the government has been able to pay by direct deposit its employees accurately and on time. The simple failure of SFMIS would facilitate the embezzlement and other corrupt practices that made President Hassan Sheikh’s previous term infamous.

Why didn’t Minister Nur resign sooner?

The finance minister reversed the suspension of two senior civil servants after coming under intense pressure from the presidency. Whether under duress or false promises, the discredited minister caved to the pressure and ended up being himself irreverently sacked by the prime minister “on the advice of the president”, just a day after the suspended men were recalled with a public apology.

According to a statement outlining his work thus far, Mr. Nur was adamant to leave a legacy like his predecessor the flamboyant Dr. Abdirahman Beyle who, for his part, had President Farmajo’s unwavering support and a frank and unimpeded relationship with the public.

Nur sincerely believed he could protect public funds from the insatiable plunder of the Damuljadid clique he once thought he could fit into by descending to their anti-Farmajo baseness. Some compared the minister’s candor to the wit of his cousin, the former governor of the Central Bank of Somalia, Yussur Abrar.

This smart-thinking and honest woman had herself been caught up in the president’s corruption in 2013. She had fled the country and resigned following death threats from the president’s entourage after she refused to authorize the transfer of state funds to the personal account of President Hassan Sheikh.

Mr Elmi Nur was advised by people close to him to resign to avoid a near and demeaning dismissal as they felt his position was untenable, but he likened their concerns to the hubbub on social media. The president and his entourage believed he would resign and did not want to give him time to retrieve anything incriminating them from his office.

Will the president respond to the clan he dispossessed?

The Prime Minister has appointed Bihi Iman Igeh, the former Labor Minister, coming from the Somaliland community as Finance Minister. For the president and his entourage, whose ignorance is legendary when it comes to northern Somalia, it would make sense to see all northern clans as similar but in current Somalia clans distinction matters.

In the 4.5 balance system of clans, the community of Mr. Nur coming from the province of Awdal finds themselves dispossessed with the loss of this important position. Concern reigns within this community of Mogadishu which is organizing to claim what is rightfully theirs from the president and his prime minister.

It remains to be seen whether they will be strong enough to bend Hassan Sheikh, caught up in other major political crises. At least he would be inclined to recall his pal, Abdisalam Omar Hadliye, who is currently the president’s special envoy to the East African Economic Community.

However, Mr Hadliye came to the IMF and World Bank crosshairs over allegations of corruption as central bank governor in 2013 and President Hassan Sheikh was forced to take in Yussur Abrar if he wanted a budget support for his government.

Birds of a feather flock together

Hadliye is an old friend of Hassan Sheikh and equally unscrupulous. At the head of the UNDP in Somalia between 2002 and 2006, he would have transferred to Hassan Sheikh, who was leading the SIMAD university, large sums through false subcontracts for the training program of the university.

In other words, the two once-suspended civil servants took advantage of embezzled aid money to carve out the positions they now hold in public finance. Their shameful re-entry into public office showed how far the president and his entourage would go to protect their flock from scrutiny for their illegal activities within the administration and from any repercussions if caught.

President Hassan Sheikh’s outrageous behavior is just the tip of the iceberg in the looting of public funds, extortion, abuse of power, dereliction of duty and toxic work environment that persists not only in finance department but throughout the federal government.

This current issue comes against the backdrop of the “anti-corruption campaign” recently announced by the president during a Friday prayer sermon. The campaign quickly began with the Auditor General announcing $21 million missing from state coffers since 2018 – 4 years before the current government took office. The indictment of 18 current and former officials, 9 of whom are already in pre-charge detention, is already seen as a political witch hunt and a ploy to divert public attention from the big fish, especially current leaders.

Ahmed Said

Ahmed is a Somali civil servant and writes a lot about the affairs of northern Somalia where he hails from.