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Somalia’s transitional administration is mired in corruption. Like other players in the lawless nation, the government has contributed to the suffering of its own people.

I can usually spot a whistleblower from a mile away. He or she has that furtive look of a hunted animal.

Words and emotions are guarded. Secrecy borders on paranoia as the whistleblower decides who to trust and who not to.

I can tell who is a whistleblower because I have been to that dark place where knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance.

I, too, have experienced the horror of having crossed a boundary I did not even know existed.

C. Fred Alford in his book, Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organisational Power, notes that the greatest shock for whistleblowers is learning that what they believed about their organisation is, in fact, not true.

“For many whistleblowers this knowledge is like a mortal illness,” he says. “They live with it, and it with them, every day and night of their lives.”

So when I met Abdirazak Fartaag, I knew what to expect. I could see that he was not quite sure whether to trust me.

I could hear the anger in his voice when he sensed that perhaps I did not believe him. It was only when I assured him I knew where he was coming from that he began opening up.

Fartaag has done what perhaps no Somali has done in the last 20 years. He has uncovered the secretive dealings of the Transitional Federal Government when he was head of Somalia’s Public Finance Management Unit from 2009 to 2011.

During his tenure, he witnessed a series of financial irregularities, including misappropriation of public funds, crooked banking practices, concealment of government expenditure receipts, and cash payments to politicians by foreign governments.

He witnessed politicians accepting cash donations in suitcases from some Arab countries, irregular withdrawals from Somalia’s Central Bank by individuals, and highly personalised payroll systems that undermined the morale of civil servants.

Fartaag, a citizen of Canada, was frustrated by these highly irregular practices and wanted the government to adopt more stringent and accountable financial management systems.

But his audit reports and recommendations were largely ignored by the government, including the Office of the Prime Minister, to which he reported.

He eventually lost his job, but he did not lose his passion for unearthing the TFG’s weak and corrupt financial management practices.

Fartaag’s reports have now been made public, and have received some media coverage, but he is not convinced that things will change.

On the contrary, the TFG has denied the report’s findings, and has shown little interest in investigating his allegations.

“They call me a traitor,” he told me over a cup of coffee in a Nairobi café. “And they send me curses through text messages.”

Most whistleblowers will tell you that they view their act of whistleblowing as a sign of loyalty to the organisation, not betrayal.

When they blow the whistle, they believe they are protecting their organisation. In Fartaag’s case, he thought he was protecting the Somalis.

They have been the victims of not just corrupt governments, but all manner of groups and people who have taken advantage of the chaos and lawlessness in the country and made a killing in the process.

First, the warlords robbed Somalis of a safe environment in which to live. Cities and infrastructure were destroyed as clans fought for supremacy.

The UN and humanitarian aid agencies made the situation worse by colluding with corrupt politicians and profiteers to divert aid, including food.

More recently, Al-Shabaab, which imposes draconian restrictions on the Somali people (including forbidding them watching football and movies) has been depriving Somalis of their basic rights.

But while we can question the intentions of these groups, it is heart-breaking to learn that Somalia’s government has also contributed to the country’s underdevelopment.

According to Fartaag, politicians have not only been robbing state coffers, but the country’s future.

The last thing Somalia needs is a government that joins all these profiteers in looting the country, thus further depriving the Somali people of much-needed infrastructure and services.

If Fartaag’s findings are indeed true, then the TFG has a lot to answer for before it leaves office in August this year.


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* Rasna Warah is a columnist with Daily Nation in Kenya, where this article was first published.
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