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Published On: Wed, Dec 14th, 2016

Integrity of Somalia’s Humanitarian Sector Must Be Strengthened for Aid to Reach Those Most in Need

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Corruption is deeply entrenched in Somalia’s economy and society. The country holds the lowest rank on Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index
NAIROBI, Kenya, December 13, 2016/ — Transparency International (www.Transparency.org), the global anti-corruption organisation, called today on the Somali government, donor agencies and humanitarian agencies to take critical steps to address corruption in the delivery of aid to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those most in need in southern Somalia.

Somalia’s ongoing conflict and complex emergency have displaced millions from their homes. The country remains weakened by years of consecutive crises: famine, poor rains and harvests, drought and other natural disasters. Nearly five million people are in need of life-saving assistance and livelihood support.

Yet the delivery of aid is complicated by insecurity, conflict and corruption. Corruption risks exist across the entire humanitarian programme cycle, from head offices in Nairobi, Kenya to operations in southern Somalia, according to a new Transparency International report published today.

The report Collective resolution to enhance accountability and transparency in emergencies: southern Somalia (http://APO.af/qhyfvG), developed in partnership with Humanitarian Outcomes, is the first independent review of corruption in southern Somalia’s humanitarian sector. Over 120 in-depth interviews and community consultations were conducted to identify corruption risks and produce a set of recommendations on how to mitigate those risks in the future.

Corruption is deeply entrenched in Somalia’s economy and society. The country holds the lowest rank on Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.

“Corruption affects all sectors in southern Somalia – and humanitarian assistance is no exception. But this is not a reason to reduce aid funding, rather it is a call to strengthen measures to mitigate the risks and ensure that the resources are used for their intended purpose: to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable,” said Samuel Kimeu, Executive Director of Transparency International Kenya.

The study shows that corruption risks exist in the identification of local partners, sometimes through collusion between international and national agency staff, and in the awarding of contracts to private contractors and humanitarian agencies. The values of contracts can also be inflated to include kickbacks in order to gain contracts.

The negotiation of conditions for access to affected communities, as noted in the Secure Access to Volatile Environments research study, often requires some form of concession or payment, which can include paying at checkpoints and paying unofficial taxes, amongst others. This form of corruption tends not to be discussed within or between agencies, which means decisions can have unintended impacts on other aid agencies and over the longer term.

The selection and targeting of aid recipients, one of the most commonly acknowledged areas of risk and corruption within the humanitarian chain, can take place at many levels such as by favouring geographic areas, favouring family and friends, creating so-called ‘ghost’ beneficiaries, and ‘taxing’ beneficiaries.

Monitoring, and the choice of monitoring mechanisms, has become one of the key stages in the programme cycle at which leverage can be exerted for personal or organisational gain, with pressure to write reports that are more favourable than their findings suggest. This contributes to an organisational culture in which accountability and integrity are not prioritised, which in turn may influence attitudes to corruption.

“Some examples of good-practice among individual agencies exist such as detailed analysis of the operating context, increased scrutiny of private contractors and better communication with the local population. Yet more comprehensive and coordinated action across all stakeholders is needed. Anti-corruption efforts need to be re-doubled across the board,” said Kimeu.

In particular, Transparency International makes the following recommendations:

Somali government should:

  • Develop and implement strategies and policies to increase the integrity of humanitarian assistance.
  • Improve humanitarian access to vulnerable populations in southern Somalia.

Donor agencies should:

  • Take concrete measures to protect humanitarian action from political interference and increase the impartiality of assistance.
  • Develop shared approaches to managing risks which may encourage transparent reporting.

Humanitarian aid agencies should:

  • Be open, principled and supportive in addressing corruption pressure and threats and actively encourage staff to report irregularities.
  • Integrate corruption risk analysis in risk management processes and develop, and review existing, monitoring tools and mitigation measures.
  • Report transparently any requests for facilitation payments and seek joint multi-agency positions on administrative blockages.
  • Invest in greater staff skills in understanding local culture and power structures, and in communicating effectively with affected communities.  

About the Author

- Mohamed Ibrahim Guled is the CEO, owner and chief editor of SomalilandPress

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