Concern as NGOs divert aid meant for starving Somalis
Fresh details have emerged of how some deceitful Kenyans and Somali nationals are diverting humanitarian aid meant for millions of Somalis suffering in the war-torn country using bogus non-governmental organisations.
While Somalia has been the worst hit in the recent droughts in the Horn of Africa, the lion share of aid has ended up in Kenya and Ethiopia, which have “better coping mechanisms and strategies than what the Somalis have at the moment”.
In 2010 a United Nations-sanctioned monitoring group report on the WFP’s operations in Somalia warned that the majority of humanitarian assistance to Somalia consists of food aid, which is particularly vulnerable to diversion.
In August last year, Mr Brendan Gormley, Chief Executive of Britain’s Disasters Emergency Committee told Channel 4 News it had raised £57 million (about Sh7.4 billion) for the Horn of Africa Appeal, but that only 27 per cent of the money was allocated to Somalia with over 70 per cent going to Kenya and Ethiopia.
But what is more disturbing are renewed claims that some NGOs operating from Nairobi are employing crude tactics to cheat donors that they have delivered humanitarian aid to the war-torn country only to end up selling it for profit.
Some individuals operating NGOs in Nairobi are said to register a logistics company, which certifies that food had been delivered to Somalia while in actual sense this has not been done or only a fraction reaches the intended beneficiaries.
Donors require that an independent company tracks aid delivery to ascertain that it had indeed reached the intended beneficiaries.
“It is a huge scam that is happening where unscrupulous individuals are enriching themselves in Nairobi as majority poor in Somalia are dying of hunger,” said a source.
The head of Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) Dr Unni Karkunakara recently said: “There’s a huge hole in the middle where aid is not getting to.”
The 2010 United Nations monitoring group report concluded that diversion involving collusion between ground transporters and implementing partners is a common form of fraud – especially where transporters and implementing partners are actually owned or controlled by the same people.
“Some implementing partners possess protected warehouses located near Somali markets where diverted food can be readily sold, and instruct transporters to deliver food directly to those warehouses rather than to specific distribution points. Transporters may feel compelled to comply in order to obtain the implementing partner certification that they have fulfilled their contract with WFP,” concluded the report.
But in a swift rejoinder, WFP refuted the claims saying while the report points to interviews with undisclosed sources as alleging that up half of WFP food assistance in Somalia is diverted, it failed provide any evidence to back up this major allegation.
These claims are lent credence by Mr Mohammed A Kalil, who claims to be the provincial commissioner of Gedo region in Somalia, who has written complaining about the operations of another UN body, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Somali.
In the letter sent to Luca Alinovi, the officer in charge of FAO, Somalia, Kalil alleges that during drought last year, seeds and other farm inputs meant for vulnerable farmers were mismanaged.
“Our investigations discovered that the resources intended for seeds and fertilisers were embezzled through creating of shoddy local NGOs and private contractors who are mainly front agents for powerful groups with FAO, Somalia,” read the letter.
We could not verify the authenticity of the letter, and a weeklong promise by Frank Nyakairu, the communications officer for FAO, Somalia, which is based at Nairobi’s Village Market, to set the record straight failed.
The seeds were not delivered to most of the regions and those who were lucky to receive some got tokens, especially in Bardera town areas.
“The (seed) quality was questionable as most of the information we received is that it was normal grain that only fits as food,” charged Kalil.
He claims to have information that one NGO was assigned to handle the seeds and fertiliser that had link with one staff at the FAO, Somalia office in Nairobi and is therefore untouchable. In addition, the administrator claims that the brother of the same FAO, Somalia staff heads an NGO that was assigned to operate at Garbahaarey area.
Similar claims were made by the 2010 UN report that established that WFP transportation contracts to Somali businessmen constituted the greatest single source of revenue in Somalia and that only three contractors receive 80 per cent of this business. The transportation budget for WFP in 2009 was about $200 million (Sh16.4 billion), it concluded.
In theory, the reports said, access to WFP contracts is subject to open tender and competitive bidding. FAO in practice, the system offers little or no scope for genuine competition,” it said.
The report pointed to the existence of a de facto cartel, characterised by irregular procedures in the awarding of contracts by the WFP Somalia country office, discriminatory practices and preferential treatment.
But the UN body refuted the assertion saying that in 2009, WFP payments to all transport contractors totaled $62 million (Sh5.2 billion), not $200 million (Sh16.4 billion).
“Work by the three most significant transport contractors in Somalia amounted to $41.4 million (Sh3.4 billion), 66 per cent of the total payments – not 80 per cent as stated in the report. WFP already took steps in 2009 to widen its pool of contractors and encourage competition,” stated WFP. Kalil further claims the unscrupulous individuals have infiltrated the local administration, with one district commissioner under investigations for benefiting from food meant for the poor Somalis.
“This is high profile fraud and we tend to believe many have high connections within FAO office…we believe it may roll back all the efforts to address post famine situations and destabilise more our fragile stability,” warns Kalil.
By KENFREY KIBERENGE
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