Investigative Reports

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Life in the Lap of Luxury: Chairman of Parliament, Other Members and Staff Charged Personal Travel Expenses to the Taxpayers

Somaliland’s new Parliament was elected amid fervor and a permeating atmosphere of hope that it will hold the Executive Branch’s feet to the fire and finally put an end to the revolving door of political expediency and corruption that has become the norm in Somaliland’s government. The fact that most of the new Members of Parliament are young and fairly educated with the bonus of the ruling party of Kulmiye losing to the opposition party has reinforced the notion that major changes were coming. Prayers finally answered and saviors finally represent the people are in office. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the new members of parliament staff and especially the Speaker, Hon. Abdirasak Khalif has been using the public coffers t cover their personal expenses, including extended paid vacations on the taxpayer dime.

Members of Parliament are the highest-paid public officials and command salaries that are higher or equivalent to cabinet ministers but have been charging the public for their most basic personal expenses, including personal travel. This has continued in the current parliament, led by Hon. Abdirasak Khalif.

Two months after winning the leadership of the newly elected parliament, the Chairman, Hon. Abdirasak Khalif went to Turkey for 28 days from October 4th to November 2nd, 2021 at the cost of 115,685,000.00 Somaliland Shillings or 13,451.74 US dollars, which comes to 480 US dollars a day. Parliamentary records state that Chairman Khalif was taking part in a conference taking place at the Turkish Parliament.

Only a month later, Chairman Khalif went to Turkey again for 34 days from December 1st, 2021 to January 3rd, 2022 99,441,000 Somaliland Shillings or 11,562.90 US dollars, which comes to 340 US dollars a day. Once again, the official reason for the Chairman’s visit to Turkey was to attend an unspecified conference in Turkey. This is according to congressional records examined by Somaliland Chronicle.

Multiple sources familiar with the Chairman’s trips to Turkey have confirmed the personal nature of his visit and that aside from addressing a gathering of Somaliland diaspora in Ankara on October 30th, 2021 there were no official business or conferences taking place in the Turkish Parliament that Chairman Khalif has attended and other sources have confirmed that Chairman Khalif’s family has lived in Turkey years before taking the top post of Somaliland Parliament.

Although Chairman Khalif’s election of Hon. Khalif as the Chairman of the new parliament was seen as a major win for the opposition parties, he has since moderated his rhetoric and in a speech at a banquet held by President Bihi declared that the parliament is under the command of the President and squarely falls under leadership. On the legislative agenda, the new Parliament has approved the 2022 budget with superficial changes and has passed all executive-level positions nominated by President Bihi since the election of the new parliament.

Leadership of the new Parliament is congratulated by President Bihi

As we previously reported, it has been a common practice that many government officials including ministers have their personal expenses such as housing and what are clearly personal trips overseas covered by the government. This includes the previous Chairman of the Parliament and the Chairman of the house of elders whose travels as well as all domestic expenses were paid with public funds.

It is unclear why the Speaker of the parliament, Hon. Abdirasak Khalif who commands a monthly salary of 5,445.29 US dollars and is said to be personally well off has chosen to use public funds to travel to Turkey twice for personal matters.

Amid catastrophic droughts that are ravaging Somaliland, the Parliament has taken a two-month recess which has prompted many staffers and legislators to travel to many parts of the world and as far as Kuala Lumpur for what is vaguely termed as recognition efforts and much like Chairman Khalif, all expenses in the tens of thousands of dollars are being footed by the public.

Although there is a commendable effort by some legislators to publicly grill government officials on television, some legislators privately complain of the parliament’s lack of organizational capacity to gather, analyze and formulate effective oversight and the leadership’s desire to minimize conflict with the executive branch.

In Somaliland, where many government employees, including military and law enforcement personnel, are severely underpaid, it is unclear if the lavish living expenses of some high-ranking officials are part of their compensation packages and if so, why these expense records are falsely categorized as official business.

Efforts to reach the Chairman of the Parliament Hon. Abdirasak Khalif for comments were unsuccessful.

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