Wazir: We want you to transfer the money to us! The Highways Agency is now under my ministry.
By:E A Abdirizak
Somalilandsun – The above jaw dropping sub-headline is what made the EU to cease the Berbera – Togwajale Road last year. According to sources close to Brussels, the EU representative could not believe what he was hearing upon informing the government and Hersi that the EU were about to award the road to a European company.
The story however begins in March 2012 upon the announcement from IGAD that the Berbera-Togwajale route is to be funded by the EU to promote regional interconnection and facilitate regional trade and transport. The EU chose IGAD as the contracting partner to deliver the project earmarked to be delivered by a reputable European company or a consortium led by a European company.
In October 2012, the EU representative visited Hargeisa as part of the process to appoint the preferred bidder and pave the way for the commencement of works.
Upon the announcement that the project would be awarded to one of the shortlisted companies, Mr Hersi, as the head of government announced to the representative that the government has dissolved the Highways Agency, The Roads Board and the Road Administration Fund and has created an agency that falls under his ministry. What’s more, he stated that he wanted the EU to facilitate the money to this new Agency for purchase of equipment and bitumen. On his return from Hargeisa, the EU representative was mystified by what can be called either shear ignorance or a deplorable attempt at funneling the EU investment into the pocket of corrupt officials. How else can one construe the dissolving of the fruits of 10 years hard work including legislations awaiting approval for a newly formed agency based on a short and poor written document by someone who has never worked with road administration and management?
The new Road Development Agency (RDA), as the new agency is called, is the brainchild of a relative of Hersi, with some road construction experience before the collapse of the Somali government! The organizational chart of this new agency shows a manager reporting to Hersi managing a Development and a Finance/Admin department.
The Hersi RDA document states “Getting and using RDA owned equipment will be an efficient approach which will enable the agency to have more equipment, easily implement low cost projects and use of the limited amount in more projects. Thus such system will replace the previous model of using government funds through private contracting and introduce new system of government investment in purchasing machinery for the projects that will be used for all projects”.
You do not have to be an expert in roads to understand that the above comment is wide off mark and only works in the daydreams of a Khat session.
The disadvantage of this includes:
1. The government spends money to purchase equipment plus cost of maintenance and repairs [cost]
2. The government finds! and employs capable road construction teams, design and research teams and pay salaries with the snap of a finger [cost]
3. In case the equipment breaks down, the government still pays the salary of the team as well as any other delay to projects, i.e. no accountability [cost, time and quality]
4. Quality and workmanship are not adhered to since the government is both the client and the contractor.[cost, quality]
Therefore, the said efficiency can never be achieved with the government delivering the projects. On the contrary, history has taught us that a government constructing projects and owning equipment is something of the past.
Was the dissolved structure so bad?!
In the last 15 years, the way roads are managed have undergone substantial revamp with the world bank assisting third world countries to manage the roads as a commercial entity. The new policy called “2nd generation road funds” was developed by Professor Ian Heggie and involved the system that is now dissolved by Hersi.
This system has worked for countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries in Africa, Asia and Americas. It has brought exceptional results to our neighbors Ethiopia whose roads have gone from the bottom of the third world to a well maintained network. Ethiopia increased the percentage of paved roads by 80% within 4 years of adopting the system. Somaliland was trying to develop the system over the past few years with the help of the EU. It involves a structure of public and private sector board managing the road network professionally with a clear legal basis.
What we have seen by dealing with the current government is that sadly Hersi and his cronies are not aware of the processes of road management and the discussion quickly descends into “construction” rather than managing a network of road which includes the long-/short term needs of the network as well as the importance of well-maintained road to the economy.
By dissolving a system that is working and replacing it with an old obsolete system not in tandem with the World Bank and the EU regulations, this government has become a laughing stock.
The decision became another nail in the coffin of our nations’ credibility and trust strengthened from the images of the 2010 election handover and the democratic process that we claimed to value.
Somaliland public at a loss
The Berbera – Togochale road was being financed under the 10th EDF (European Development Fund) for the period of 2008 – 2013. The first phase of the project, a pre-feasibility study, was completed in 2003. It has taken another 6 years before the budget for this phase was approved and another 2 years before the project was tendered. All that hard work is now down the drain and the budget has been transferred to other projects with Somaliland public at a great loss.
The regulations of the European development Fund are stringent and the benefiting countries must adhere to strict financial and procurement regulations. The new RDA, as setup by Hersi, does not pass these regulations and until the dissolved setup is reinstated, the EU and the World Bank are reluctant to fund the road infrastructure under this regime.
According to our sources from Djibouti and IGAD, the government was advised to return to Agency to the previous setup. A further formal letter was issued at a later date informing the government that the project would be frozen.
The add salt to the injury, Somalia is now a signatory of the Cotonou Agreement between the ACP Countries and the European Union which forms that base for the forthcoming 11th EDF. Hence any further request would most certainly involve Mogadishu attempting to lay a claim to the project.
The lack of experience among the current crop of ministers is the biggest failure of the current government. In an ideal world, changing and revamping an institution requires substantial study to investigate where the failure stems from rather than treating these sacred institutions like s playground toys. Government institutions should be protected from these types of actions by the constitution and a strong parliament.
One has to look at the state of the roads to understand that the current regime has miserably failed to provide the simple maintenance strategy for the existing roads. Since the inception of the new RDA, the Berbera – Hargeisa road has deteriorated at an exponential rate and thus claiming more life. In monetary terms, a loss of income bringing life is a great loss to the society, but this government will only talk “construction” of new roads. That, and the now famous photo opportunity at the daily parties this government is fond of attending.
In another world, interference like this would have constituted treason. How else can one explain a minister dissolving national institutions just before a major contract award and bringing them under his own ministry that does not have any connection whatsoever to management of infrastructure works?
Somaliland Diaspora Professionals
E A Abdirizak