As deputy speaker and MPs supportive of the deal walk out of the house and commerce minister deny knowledge of purported fuel depot privatization plan
By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The management of oil storage facility and subsequent handling of fuel stocks in the country shall remain in government hands.
This was the unanimous decision by members of the Somaliland House of Representatives during a debate on a proposed government plan to relinquish day to day management of the facility in Berbera by contracting a private company.
Taking their cue from the vehement opposition to the plan by members of the public that has been the issue in the recent past legislators not only refused to debate a motion supportive to the move by government and signed by 10 of their own but snubbed perusal of a report on the move.
Being in no mood for either debate on the subject the quorum of 55 chaired by speaker Abdirahman Irro with the support of his two deputies Mohamed Bashe and Ali Aw Yusuf opted for expedited vote with the anti-privatization members carrying the day.
The outcome of the vote in which 40 MPs voted against saw deputy speaker Mohamed Bashe and a few of his deal supportive legislators leave the house hastily after it became obvious that their motion had been thrown out.
The public owned fuel storage depot situated in the port city of Berbera is said to generate annual revenue of $24m which has a huge impact on the central coffers and subsequent government operations in the country.
In justification of their rejection for the proposed transfer of the depot from government management the legislators of the House of Representatives which is the lower chamber of the Somaliland parliament said that the plan was both legal and one geared towards availing a crony monopoly over the country’s oil management and handling.
The saga of the oil depot denationalization plan and subsequent heated debate both in official corridors and Khat chewing mafrashes ensued immediately the minister of commerce Dir. Musa Kassim Aw Omar divulged it during a grilling by the parliamentarian good governance and public assets committee in Hargeisa.
Following this disclosure member of the parliamentary constitutional committee signed a condemnation letter in which they accused the government for the prevalent wanton sale of public properties to politically correct individuals and cronies of the ruling elite.
Terming this practice as unlawful MP Saeed Elmi Roble who spoke on behalf of the Speaking on condemnation signatory legislators further warned the government to stop the illegal practice he called “auctioning public property”
In the meantime the rejection of the privatization deal by parliamentarians has been termed as surprising by the minister of commerce who in a letter of the 30th Aug 2015 (See below in Somali language) stated that despite the authority granted his portfolio for management of the national fuel depot and including disposal in any matter deemed fit, such has not yet occurred.
Wrote the minister, Quote – Though my ministry is responsible for the management of the Oil Storage Depot in Berbera we have not submitted a privatization plan to the president and neither has he submitted such to parliament”
“It is thus surprising to hear of legislators rejecting a ghost plan “said Minister Musa Kassim while accusing opposition political parties for having a hand in the events.
In support of the sentiments by his Boss, the manager of the oil storage facility Sheikh Suleiman Saeed Ali wondered on where the purported report on the depot in possession by legislators came from thus also negating the said annual profit of $24m.
Whatever the case, be whether the depot manager presented the report or the government had actual proposed privatization and submitted draft for debate in parliament or not the issue is now a foregone conclusion and the next step should be establishing mechanisms to ensure that consumers are availed quality products and at affordable prices.
On the other hand maybe it is time that the authorities come up with a plan to have its own fuel depot for the sole use by government vehicles for it is absurd to continue in the current fashion where the central coffers are paying exorbitant fuel prices to the private suppliers utilized.
As is the norm elsewhere the availability of a government only use fuel depot shall not only save huge amounts from state expenditure but will negate the current status in which our government is paying tax to itself.
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