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Published On: Thu, Sep 3rd, 2015

Somaliland:Berbera Oil Depot Lacks Transparency, Good Management

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In the 2010 presidential campaign, then candidate Silanyo promised to deliver an “accountable and transparent” administration. He vowed: to crack down on corruption and nepotism, reform judiciary, set up an independent Attorney General Office, and uphold the rule of law.But many clueless Somalilanders bought it, including many seasoned politicians, who rallied behind Silanyo with offers of support, despite Silanyo’s history of pandering on parochial, clannish politics. Everyone came together for one purpose: to defeat the incumbent Riyaale, who was presiding over massive corruption.

But at the same time, on backroom deals, Silanyo was making promises to another group of people: his cronies.

This week, to keep his promises to those cronies, Silanyo is circumventing the legislature in order to complete the transfer of management of  the Berbera Oil Terminal(BOT), and the distribution of petroleum products to them.

Silanyo has already neglected his fiduciary responsibility to protect the public infrastructures like the

BOT; the legislature must hold him accountable, because the Somaliland people are demanding transparent and accountable government.

To do that, the legislature has already passed a resolution blocking that transfer. The legislature did the right thing about this serious matter although it’s too little and too late to stop Silanyo’s wholesale auctioning of Somaliland’s resources and infrastructure.

But, in addition, the legislature must also appoint an independent commission made of a professional group of people like engineers and accountants’ .The commission would investigate the state and conditions of the storage tanks, its operating budget condition, and the revenue it generates. The professional engineers would inspect the tanks to make sure that the tanks are structurally sound, with no leaking and capable of holding the specific fuel being stored, while the accountants would audit the financial side of BOT, and its vendors or partners.

According to BOT’s website, currently, seven companies such as Hass, Red-Sea, Waraabe, and others supply petroleum products to BOT. Some of the owners of these companies include a fuel distributor from Kenya, a livestock trader, and a fuel gas station operator. While the rest of these companies, according Somaliland media websites, are ghost companies that allegedly belong to some Silanyo’s closest ministers, who want to cash in on this looting.

However, managing and maintaining BOT is not like running a four pump gas station with an underground tank. Fuel storage tanks requires routine maintenance to prevent corrosion, sludge build up, and leaks of fuel to the underground because petroleum products are harmful and once it is migrates to underground water  it’s impossible to get them out.

But these suppliers who want takeover BOT, have no prior experience of managing and maintaining fuel depots, or resources to do a cleanup in case of environmental disaster.

I am not against local private entrepreneurs managing BOT; however, all I am asking is for an open and transparent process. I think it’s reasonable, for instance, for the last three years how much taxes did these fuel companies paid to our treasury?  And, if they did pay little or no taxes, why? What it is their total revenue? Can they maintain and manage BOT?

In fact, according to Suleiman Ali, the General Manager of BOT, “the suppliers of Petroleum products do not pay any tax to Somaliland treasury.”Instead, local fuel station owners pay the tariffs on petroleum products, which transfer the cost to the consumers. As the result, Somaliland drivers are paying high fuel price close to $4 per gallon or a dollar per liter, for a low quality fuel. In Contrast, here in the state of Ohio, the price one gallon of unleaded gasoline is $2.16.

Many ordinary people are suspecting there is a scheme in which Silanyo and his ministers are receiving kickbacks or bribes from these business groups in exchange for not paying taxes or tariffs on petroleum products, communications and money transfer businesses.

The Somaliland people can’t trust anything Silanyo, his corrupt Ministers and manager, including the so-called Sheikh Suleiman who is running the BOT, are saying anymore because of deceptions and lies.

More troubling, this week, the inept and corrupt local council of Hargeisa, who are unable to clean the city let alone manage, it has increased the fees the Hargeisa Abattoir is charging to the local butchers, who are mostly poor women. As result, for two days, meat was not available in Hargeisa’s markets because the butchers protested against the fee hikes, and the government responded arresting them, without any due process.

But the only way to get to the bottom of Silanyo’s massive corruption is Somaliland to have an independent and a powerful Attorney General Office with competent prosecutors to go after these thugs who are pocketing the poor people’s money. Money that could have been used to improving basic service like safe clean water or for health services on women and children.

Ali Mohamed

Lewis Center, Ohio

Twitter:  @Gobanimo2

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