QUESTS-MIDA (Qualified Expatriate Somali Technical Support)
by: Suldaan Nayruus Xaaji Aadan
WHAT DOES THE QUEST – MIDA PROJECT CONTRIBUTE TO THE COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE?
Does the project serve its intended course?
From 2009 up to date IOM and UNDP have been running a project entitled QUEST – MIDA which is funded by foreign countries. This project is intended to bring back the Somali Diaspora intellectuals with sound knowledge, expertise and experience to Somalia. The project’s sole aim is to utilize the knowledge, skills and experience of the Somali Diaspora in a bid to restore key aspects of good governance, developmental planning, aid coordination, public and parliamentary reforms in a transparent and accountable manner and to provide technical knowhow in different autonomous regions of Somaliland, Puntland and South and Central Somalia.
This project was ideally meant for the Somali Diaspora who had fled from Somalia to the western countries of Europe and North America and gained permanent residency. The western countries are donating the grants and reaching out to the Somali Diaspora living in the western countries to benefit from this project. Since these project activities were launched, the Somali Diasporas gaining from this project have been storming country.
Methods through which applications were sent previously and the current norms
Previously, individual from the Diaspora would request and apply for positions while they were in their country of residence and after being accepted they would come to work to the regions they applied for. But of late, other methods of position applications have emerged. The Diaspora individual will go to a high government office, where they have a relative or close friend and they will request to become a consultant, afterwards either the close friend or relative in the Ministries will send the formal request to the agencies that run the project. Therefore the government office will facilitate the request of the Diaspora individual interested in this opportunity, by sending a request letter to the agencies indicating the need for this person to work as a consultant within the ministry and to be as well offered a contract. In receiving this request letter, the agencies of this project will accept the request in consideration of the senior government office proposal. Therefore the senior regional governments as well as federal government offices have found a way to bring their relatives in the Diaspora to get paid well through this project. Each office is requesting for many advisors in favor of their relatives in the Diaspora and these requests are sent to the agencies, this has reduced and limited people who used to directly apply. Some of the people who came through this project have promoted into government ministries and began to make this project a source of income whereby they divide the income with their relatives whom they facilitated into this project.
Are these individuals from the Diaspora community the right people needed for this project?
Simply, this project was meant to encourage the Diaspora individuals to came back to the country and invest back their skills, knowledge and expertise. In order to make this a reality as well as encourage people, there were no entry tests and complex competitions that led to the placement of the project except small informal interviews that led to speedy information sharing among the Diaspora about this easily obtainable project placements and thus led to whoever was interested to apply either directly or through the facilitation of government offices and Ministries. In any way, they apply through apart from their application request and mere checking of their documents there are no investigation, analysis and lengthy follow-ups done to their submitted documents and credentials in order to prove their ability, expertise and experiences of this individual or if they can extensively contribute to the areas they applied or their reputations as well as who they were within the Somali community from where they lived.
Many of the Diaspora professionals as well as other ones have involved themselves actively in the country’s conflicts and they have a history of providing support to the warlords within their respective clan. It happened that individuals who were contracted through the same process were the ones who started to initiate further problems and fuel more tribalism and set new trial within the people instead of working towards the development of the country. It is worth mentioning that some limited Diaspora professionals find their way through this project after they were genuinely motivated and authentically sent their application while some others came through the other means i.e. via clan wise. It is possible that they don’t know or even have the ability and experiences of the work they are paid for. On the other hand there are some other people with the knowledge and expertise for the job but after they arrive here they will not familiarize themselves with techniques of the work in the country and will get confused, most of these individuals are the Somali youth born or raised in the west and are not well versed with life back in the country.
There are many other ones who do not have the technical knowledge and therefore hire internal experts to assist him draft quarterly reports. Mostly, the employees they were supposed to work with do not even know him or and rarely see him except at times when they will be seen accompanying the minister. And when the project agencies are monitoring, the staff will always speak well of him and give positive feedback about this individual because the minister brought him here and facilitated his placement thus the employees are afraid to indicate otherwise. In this regard there are no measurable impacts from this project in many areas of its interventions.
A lot of resources are lost this way which could have benefited the country in many other rewarding ways.
What exactly do these persons meddle in unlike their intended roles in the project?
As earlier described this project was meant to build the capacity of the administrations and the central government through investing back the knowledge, skills and experiences of the Somali Diaspora who were educated outside the country and who were exposed to the professional lives and behaviors of the developed world.
This was intended to bring back their development as well as what they had gained in the Diaspora back to the country. In any case if this was intended it didn’t happen this way. As soon as they arrive and get these jobs in Somalia and the good hefty salaries with no imposed taxation which they haven’t being able to get back in Europe and America their greedy desire even increases more and more. Unlike the way it should be they fall short of providing the good advice and technical assistance and the expertise they claimed to disburse and this was not in any way properly invested back at the same time they rarely export their experiences gained back in the developed countries to their Somali counterparts in the governments and in other parts of the country. Most of them will be occupied or get involved in politics and landing a major seat in their respective governments as well as facilitate their way into the government offices through the money gained from this project which they use to mobilize elders and their clan for their own desire to get more money than he/she is earning at that time. They don’t care who they step on along the way and will get on at any cost because their immediate families are not present in the country, therefore the welfare of others in the country will not be of their concerns. Even in coming here they have ulterior motives and there is something missing from their lives they couldn’t attain up there and they need to accomplish it here at the cost of the Somali people back home. One of the true stories that happened at one point was that a consultant to one of the ministries who was desperately searching for a government position in one of the ministries was asked why he was very interested in this job and he quickly responded that “He needed to pay off his house mortgage back in the US and this was the reason he was head over heels for the job.
As these persons are mostly attached to the ministries they have close contacts with the specific minister as well as accompany him to all his travels for the purpose of exposing themselves to different places both internally and externally so that they gain the needed reputation and initiate special contacts wherever they go. In leaving the country they reprint their fake business cards to disburse in external meetings and these persons will always struggle for external recognition. As they are close to the specific minister, this particular individual will always represent him in all his external dealings wherever possible unlike other senior civil servants in the ministry. They as well very much enjoy travelling as this is a door towards fulfilling their innate greedy personal desires.
It once happened that a director of a specific ministry was invited to South Africa, after all the travel plans were put in place the general Director went for his trip before he was cut short in the middle of his travel. This happened while he was transiting in Nairobi at the point where he wanted to update the people of the institution that sent the invitation whereby right at that time he was informed that his ministry sent someone else with a different name, in astonishment and humiliation he was forced to return back. These individuals that are constantly interchanged with the opportunities intended for the local civil servants within the country who were meant to benefit from these programs with other incompetent people brought from abroad. The people within the country serving at different institutions are deprived constantly of their privileges and all opportunities both externally and within and this chances are preserved for other relatives mostly from abroad that are close to those who serve in senior positions both in government institutions and others.
As they are relatives or close friends with the minister, there are no follow-ups done on these people and the employees in the ministry will not be able to complain if they intervened with their work or if they have concerns. He doesn’t do a full time job but rather is a puppet and acts like a wild animal waiting for their next prey. This person will also take full advantage in the areas that concerns them unlike performing on daily basis just like other employees or as depicted in their TOR. In opposite to this, he is very much distracted searching for alternative routes and chances at any cost. By this he will go very far by establishing a seemingly illegal NGO or company with some other representatives without functioning or stagnant offices that will make them knock many doors that they think will lead them other easy opportunities.
When it is time to send the project reports to the respective agencies, they will hire someone to do it on their behalf to draft an excellent informative report and this is how they will send it to the agencies. In receiving this document the respective agencies will acknowledge the report as well as comment on the excellent information in the report which is as they expected, maybe they will at least send a letter of gratitude for the good job done. In this regards it is highly likely that they will receive an extension of the contract agreement.
What is the effect of the actions on the local communities?
When they arrive in the country to work as usual, they settle in luxurious hotels as they rely on their hefty salaries that can cater for their stay as well as lead them to be someone they are not, a figure among their clan and perceive themselves to be reputed among the community. They do not appear to be well educated as they seem from their interactions, especially when they speak they brag in amusement unlike real educated people with skills and experiences. There is one thing that they attract people to and they enjoy speaking about it that is they had lived in the west. Amazingly you will see many of them enrolling in local universities that make people doubt about their so called expertise.
They do not work or engage themselves in the activities they claim to perform in the country instead they spend their time in the areas where government officials are located because they like the exposure; they participate in events, search for seminars and trips abroad. The people are well aware of their continued secure finances therefore people tend to believe that being from abroad favored them unlike other persons more competent and hardworking than them who are not even paid good salaries.
The Somali youth are not able to find good jobs unlike them they are aware how these people from abroad easily find jobs without the struggle and how they are extravagantly spent on, that’s why they opt to migrate and risk their lives across the dangerous roads in search of better living conditions. Some are attracted to get the international passport in the western countries that is favorable for easy opportunities back in Somalia. Sufficient is this example – a few months ago a young man who had graduated from one of the universities in the country died in the sea between Libya and Europe. The deceased decided to take this risky journey after his cousin who left the country over seven years ago come back through this project with a job that seemed a lot to him plus frequent travels to seminars abroad with good per diems and extra incentives as well as having fun in luxurious hotels in the country, compared to his situation jobless and nothing to do even after trying a lot to get a job. This situation tempted him and he decided to leave the country – to him this journey was worth the risk.
Since a lot of funds are spent on this project, it is advisable that it is executed as planned and to its intended course.
Therefore it is strongly recommended that the following issues are addressed:
1. A free and fair recruiting process should be observed through direct applications.
2. A thorough background check should be done on the candidates before the incumbent is elected to office. These key areas should be assessed;
(a) An in-depth look into their knowledge, skill and qualifications
(b) Criminal history, records and reputation they uphold in the society. The role they played in the society and how they are perceived in the society greatly helps to know them deeply by their character, attitude and behavior.
3. A medical checkup should be done on individuals before their placement to Somalia.
4. The recruiting agencies should give the incumbents’ probationary period while closely assessing their knowledge, capabilities and achievements before engaging them in a full term employment.
5. To put in place a complain mechanism for the staff of the ministry to send across their concerns as far as this project implementation is concerned.
6. Assessing and evaluating the projects’ impacts, goals, objectives and achievements before contract extension – Has the project achieved its intended goals and objectives? Has the capacity of the ministry staff been improved?
7. To expose genuine individuals under this project to a much needed official programs and seminars to intellectually develop them for the benefit of the staff they are coaching and to acquire knowledge from them.
8. To consider in this project other Somali Diaspora from other parts of the globe (i.e. Middle East and some parts of Africa) other than limiting it to the western countries because there are many Diaspora from this countries who have a lot to offer.
9. If it is possible, it is good for the project to cover people educated within the country so that they can get access to job opportunities.
Suldaan Nayruus Xaaji Aadan