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Friday, February 14, 2003 


Millions lost on Somali talks

 Payment of Sh500m ($6.1m) stopped as audit reveals financial anomalies


Millions of shillings were lost in financial irregularities unearthed in an audit of the ongoing Somali peace talks.

The audit, ordered by agencies funding the national reconciliation talks in Kenya, discovered fictitious payments, records of non-existent delegates and double registration of representatives, among other things.

A source at the ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters gave an example of a media consultancy firm, which has claimed Sh2 million for services not rendered.

"The company staff has never even been seen in Eldoret since October when the conference started yet they have presented a bill of Sh2 million for payment. In fact, media services at the council were being handled by ministry of Foreign Affairs officials," the source said.

The audit is said to have discovered some names of delegates who were booked in more than one hotel and bills for vehicles not used for the conference.

"The auditors were surprised to find that some vehicles, which had remained parked for months due to lack of fuel, had provided bills for payments. It is suspected there was collusion between some management officials, hoteliers, transporters and fictitious companies to defraud the organisers of the conference money," the source said.

Some hospitals are also said to have presented bills for medical services not provided to the delegates.

The source said nearly Sh500 million owed to the conference's creditors might only be paid after the audit is concluded.

Early this week, Foreign Affairs press and liaison officer P. Nyagah denied that the auditor was deployed to scrutinise misappropriation of funds.

Meanwhile, Puntland State minister for Justice and Religion Ahmed Ashareh says he is confident an all-inclusive government for Somalia will be constituted during the talks.

Mr Ashareh, however, accused some leaders of working for the downfall of the talks through "foreign media propaganda" and failing to attend the conference.

He said a party hosted on Tuesday by Puntland State President Abdullahi Yusuf, signified a breakthrough in the efforts to find peace in the Horn of Africa country. The party was attended by the main Somali factional leaders and representatives of the international community.

In another development, delegates to the talks have vowed not to move to Nairobi until hoteliers, transporters and other creditors are paid the nearly Sh500 million owed to them.

The creditors have complained of non-payment of their dues since the talks started last October. The third phase of the talks is expected to start on Monday at Nairobi's Kenya College of Communication Technology, Mbagathi.

He said KCCT charged only about Sh2500 per delegate per day for accommodation and meals unlike as much as Sh7,000 per person per day being charged by some Eldoret hotels.

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