- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

NAIROBI, KENYA While tens of thousands of its citizens were dying from famine, the U.N.-backed Somali government spent only $1 million on social services despite having $58 million in revenue, according to a report by a former Somali government official.

The whistleblowing report shines a light on chaotic and secretive financial dealings and says the Somali government failed to explain how the $58 million it recorded receiving last year actually was spent.

Somali government officials disputed the report by Abdirazak Fartaag, the former head of the Public Finance Management Unit, a Somali government body charged with overseeing the country’s financial management.

“The government is very committed in terms of fighting corruption,” said government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman. “That report does not reflect the reality on the ground, and it lacks credibility and data.”

More than $2.6 million was budgeted for social services, according to the report.

Mr. Fartaag was fired around the time he wrote another report saying tens of millions of dollars were missing from government accounts. Improved accounting of the money that comes in and out of the government is vital to solving Somalia’s 21-year-old civil war, analysts say.

As long as warlords and corrupt officials are able to benefit from the chaos, they have little incentive to end it.

At a conference attended by world leaders in London last month, donors and Somali officials agreed to set up a joint board to manage Somalia’s finances.

The failure to keep track of Somalia’s cash has proved deadly. Politicians fight for control of the cash, but little of it reaches the needy.

A promise to end corruption was a key recruiting tool for the Islamist insurgency fighting the government.

The fighting was a key cause of last year’s famine, which killed 50,000 to 100,000 people, according to the British government.

A refusal by insurgents to allow many aid groups access to distribute food also is a major problem. The United Nations is appealing for $1.5 billion this year to aid Somalia.

Somalia needs a solid framework that improves transparency,” said Comfort Ero, the Africa program director for the International Crisis Group think tank. “[The government] hasn’t provided basic services.”

The report, while not publicly released, was presented to Somali legislators last month. It is based on banking records, the government budget and other financial documents.

Last year, the government raised about $58 million, including about $20 million in domestic revenue and an additional $3.7 million seized at the airport as part of a confiscated ransom for pirates.

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