MOGADISHU:- An employee working at the Office of Somali President (The Villa Somalia) has been caught with receiving overpayments from the government for almost more than three years, according to a document seen by Horn Observer and interviews with senior officials from the Somali Civil Service Commission.
On May 9, the National Civil Service Commission (NCSC) found that Mr. Yonis Hassan Hussein, a senior employee at Villa Somalia was receiving overpayments and ordered a probe into the matter. A letter was sent to the Offices of the Public Accounts, the Auditor General, the Finance Ministry and copied to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Office of the Prime Minister and Office of Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
“We sent a letter that had reference number of XG/KAA/NCSC to all the concerned offices ordering to launch an investigation. We were very clear that this employee who works for the President was receiving overpayments. Unfortunately there was no immediate actions taken despite the government claims that it is at war with graft,” a senior NCSC officer in charge of anti-fraud investigations told Horn Observer in anonymous condition due to fear of repercussions.
The investigating officers found that the Villa Somalia employee had been on double payrolls: He was a senior staff at the Office of president Farmajo while he was working also for the National Commission for Refugees and IDPs (NCRI) which is a national body supported by several United Nations agencies including International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
On May 21, Hassan Abshirow Mohamed, NCSC Chair wrote again to the Offices of the Public Accounts, the Auditor General, the Finance Ministry and copied to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Office of the Prime Minister and Office of Somali President, to inform about the outcome of their probe and to demand from the office of the President to repay a lump sum of USD6,352.8 (Six Thousands and Three Hundred and Fifty Two and Eight Cents), an amount Mr. Yonis received as overpayment.
“We demand that Mr. Yonis’s contract be terminated immediately to avoid overpayment and that he will be forced to repay a lump sum of USD6,352.8 (Six Thousands and Three Hundred and Fifty Two and Eight Cents), an amount Mr. Yonis received as overpayment from the Office of the President of the Republic,” NCSC Chair, Hassan Abshirow Mohamed wrote in his letter dated May 21.
IMPUNITY FOR CORRUPTION
Ending impunity for corruption was the main agenda from the onset of the current Farmajo administration. From March to April this year, the Somali Attorney General, Sulaymam Mohamed Mohamud has reported more than 20 cases of arrests against mid-rank government officials and others under probe for stealing aid money from the Ministry of Health amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, despite the Chair of NCSC, Mr. Hassan Abshirow, and his investigating officers made a concrete conclusion in their investigation on the overpayments taking place and had seriously alerted the authorities, there has never been any steps taken against the said Villa Somalia officer.
“Impunity breeds lawlessness and if not dealt with it can lead to the destabilisation of the country. Nobody took care of our alert and unfortunately this officer continued to work at Villa Somalia with total impunity,” the NCSC investigating officer said “Despite the police and the Auditor General and the Attorney General were able to apprehend allegedly corrupt officials of the Ministry of Health, they could not arrest Mr. Yonis who has been stealing state funds because he enjoys total impunity.”
Early on Saturday, when under cover reporter from Horn Observer contacted Mr. Yonis, he told he was still working at the Social Affairs Department of the Villa Somalia.
“This is a problem facing government payrolls and public financial management (PFM) in Somalia,” Hassan Mudey, a former Somali anti-fraud officer who worked as a financial crime investigator told Horn Observer.
According to the NCSC investigating officer, the protection that some senior public servants enjoy from the top government leadership could be attributed to the lack of quick measures against such fraudulent officials.
But the public is tired of hearing it. Scarce government funds filling the pockets of corrupt officials; in this particular case wasting aid money given generously. Stories of ghost workers come to light time and again in Somalia which has a weak public financial management and high levels of corruption.
“We have seen cases of ghost workers— names of people who died or who have completely ceased working are still on the government payroll. We have also seen an increased number of overpayments taking place at the Office of the President and the Finance Ministry,” concludes the NCSC investigating officer “If Somalia certainly wants to be real in the fight against corruption, we need to re-visit our actions and seriously deal the fraud within.”