Reimagining SAI Reform in Somalia
Guest blog by H.E Mohamed M Ali, Auditor General FGS
Just a few weeks ago, David Goldsworthy, the principal consultant at Development Action and a fellow speaker at IFAC and PAFA’s Fragile States Conference, wrote an article asking readers to imagine walking into their office on the first day and finding no computers, limited equipment, and few qualified accountants. This was the very real scenario when I first assumed my post as the 8th Auditor General of the Federal Republic of Somalia in August 2017.
Prior to this, for over two decades, I lived and worked in the United States—mostly in Washington DC — in both in the private and public financial sectors, having only traveled to Somalia briefly in 2015 and 2016. So, when I received a phone call last summer to serve my country, I was both humbled and thrilled. My initial reaction was to put together a brief plan outlining how to assess critical conditions within the Office of Auditor General (“OAG”). This assessment would indicate how Somalia compared to the global community.
You can imagine how I felt when I first entered the OAG, with my briefcase in hand, only to find standards below my expectations—the above-mentioned situation playing out. Less than 20 percent of the staff had the credentials and qualifications that were necessary to run the institution. There were not enough desks, and no computers or other accompanying technology.
Starting from almost ground zero was not easy. I constantly received messages from development partners seeking to assist on various tasks, but each one was unaware of what the previous donor had to offer. While I appreciated the eager attitudes and assistance, the lack of coordination was evident and counterproductive to our objectives in the OAG. Accordingly, I responded to all of the interested donors, informing them that I needed at least one month to make my own assessments of the situation on the ground.
During that time period, I saw an institution that existed by name alone, stuck in the 1990s in terms of work product, human capacity, resources, and infrastructure, striving to fulfil a mandate outlined in an outdated Audit Law. I knew that a prosperous Somalia required a robust public financial management accountability system and that the OAG would play a pivotal role in this reform process. And with the support of the INTOSAI Development initiative we developed a new three-year strategic plan in order to begin this process.
Subsequently, I invited all of the donor partners to a conference to present the strategic plan to harmonize resources into an efficient and effective manner. We recently commenced our first year of the strategic plan and are now undergoing our operational plan phase. My goal is to employ talented, local Somalis to build up our capable human resources through various capacity building projects. Additionally, we are working to bring in long-term international advisors from the financial and legal sectors to lay the framework and assist the Auditor General to rebuild an effective institution. We want to continue the efforts to modernize the OAG and establish standards equivalent to those of neighbouring countries. Most of all, we want to eventually transfer the knowledge necessary to maintain consistent progress. Over the next three years we will track our progress through annual reports to ensure accountability and maintain the trust of our Parliament, government, donor partners, and citizens of Somalia.
Somalia is a unique example. The country is undergoing a transformation from a centralized form of government to a federal state system. As such, one must take into consideration the challenges facing the federal government to juggle between the complexities of developing a new political system and reforming federal institutions. While our model is not perfect, it is right for Somalia. In fact, our OAG model is now used as a case study for other fragile states as an example on how to approach development partners in a productive, coordinated, and collective way.
I am realistic, but that does not mean I should not set attainable goals and continue to push for progress. Somalia will require reasonable change with the proper resources, donor support, and the political willingness to make sure this all works. As the leading accountants and auditors in the government, it is up to us to lead the way and seize opportunities to fulfil the promise that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.
H.E. Mohamed M. Ali was appointed Auditor General of Federal Government of Somalia on 3 August 2017. He has more than fifteen years of experience in the public and private sectors where he managed financial operations, audits, resource allocation, small and large contracts, and negotiated disputes. During his tenure in public service, Mr. Ali served in senior positions in the Government of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. He also worked in the private sector in telecommunications industry. Mr. Ali has also cofounded and served as Executive Director of Somalia Forward Group, a consulting and advisory organization that serves leading businesses, governments, non-government organizations, and not-for- profits that are dedicated to rebuilding Somalia. Mr. Ali attained his Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland University College, Graduate School of Management and Technology. He also holds a Bachelor of Science from George Mason University where he majored in Accounting.