Will Somalia’s new large cabinet help govt’s spending cutdown plan?  

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Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Left) and his prime minister Hassan Ali Kheyre (Right).

Meanwhile, fears are growing that many of the new ministerial portfolios in addition to the existing deputy ministers would translate into several budgets for ministries and parastatals alike, as each would have to co-manage the national budget.

By Judy Maina, judy.maina@alleastafrica.com

NAIROBI – On Tuesday, Somalia’s new prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire has unveiled his new cabinet, one of the largest the impoverished horn of Africa nation ever had. However, questions remain whether it will it help the country’s political scene characterized by new leadership, transitory governments and promises to root out corruption.

Once elected, president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has promised his government would cut down government spending  to help efforts to boost the country’s economy. However, it remains unclear whether the new large-cabinet will help his long-touted ‘saving’ policy.  But if the ministers are able to deliver on the promises of Mr. Mohamed, the criticism would dip in favour of the government.

Meanwhile, fears are growing that many of the new ministerial portfolios in addition to the existing deputy ministers would translate into several budgets for ministries and parastatals alike, as each would have to co-manage the national budget.

Announcing his cabinet, prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire vowed his government would ‘change’ the government’s old working system by bringing in a strict accountability, something that his predecessors failed to deliver.

In Somalia, ministerial positions are seen to be the most lucrative and quick richness businesses owing to lack of accountability and strict reform in a country which is considered to be an accountability free-zone.

Mr. Khaire also called his cabinet ‘technocrats’ , however, it remains unclear whether they’ll help efforts by the new leadership to enact a key reforms, including measures to tackle purported graft within the public sector.

Promising to root out corruption, Mr. Khaire has also noted that all new ministers would be required to ‘fully’ disclose their assets and sign a code of ethics in order to improve transparency.’, something hailed by the large parts of the public.

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To impose an effective anti-corruption measures, political experts recommended the new prime minister to establish an Anti-Corruption Commission with the power to carry out formal investigations and to review government decisions and protocols so as to monitor all activities by public officials more closely.

Furthermore, experts also suggested for Mr. Khaire to prohibit unnecessary trips abroad by members of government, with all travels by ministers would have to secure the Prime Minister’s consent.

Somalia’s opposition parties appear nonchalant with the new oversized cabinet, however, the debate on what the future holds has been trending on social media and at some point has slipped more in a negative direction.

According to Jacob Moses, a horn of Africa political expert based in Nairobi, a 67-member cabinet seems to be a ‘parsimonious’ move for Somalia due to estimated costs involved and inefficiency that may follow, with ministers and their deputies would receive monthly salaries between $7000 – $4,000 in addition to at least two cars, free fuel, a house, free utilities and personal protection at exceptionally more challenging time that the country faces one of the worst droughts in history.

In the new cabinet, women represent 23 percent in the new cabinet while the diaspora secure 60 percent of the portfolios, according the leading local Somalian radio station, Dalsan.

With only 12 million population, the new large-sized Somalia cabinet arguably makes it second African nation with the second largest cabinet ministers, After Ghana, which has a 27 million population.

This week, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, who promised to cut superfluous government spending, has appointed an “elephant size” government of 110 ministers.

Following from the new wave of ministerial intake, the agriculture ministry now boasts a minister, a minister of state and three deputies. Four other ministries also have three deputies and a minister, according to UK’s Independent newspaper.

(Additional reporting and editing by John Thiongo)

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