Somaliland: Community Awaiting SBF Round II Grants Call for Proposals Forlornly

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“In lieu of attracting similar damaging insinuations from intended beneficiaries the SBF should take a leaf from the very successful USAID funded Partnership for Economic growth grants program” Ms Anab Mukhtar

By: Yumoha Pasha

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The Somaliland business fund-SBF is on advanced plans to make calls for round II grants application to a forlorn business community that is still trying to grasp with round I misdemeanours.

According to the SBF website http://somalilandbusinessfund.com A 2nd Round or Call for Proposals for both small and large grants is expected to be in June, 2013.

While it is expected that the round II grants shall see a bigger sum than the $2m that were divided among the 59 beneficiaries in Round I many quarters have raised queries about the selection process of beneficiaries in view of the alleged erroneous procedures attributed to Round I.

The ministry of commerce which acknowledges that it has received a lot of unfair and biased play complaints from unsuccessful SBF Round I applicants says that it plans to play an active role during the round II process.

“Though it appears as if the ministry is unconcerned about the many complaints of alleged unfair submitted by unsuccessful applicants, our plan is to let things be as they are as pertains to Round I while taking a more active role during forthcoming Round II procedures” Said Mr Salaan Abdi Egge the Director General-DG at ministry of commerce.

While the ministry of commerce does not want to interfere with which individual applicants are awarded the SBF grants it is interested in the balancing of awards as related to the five main economies, regional and gender.

According to DG Egge the ministry intends to propose that a technical review committee with expertise in the five main economies be established to assist the SBF during the RII selection process as opposed to RI which lacked such.

Said DG Egge, “the proposed technical review committee is set to pool its membership from the ministry of commerce, chamber of commerce and sector experts”

Concurring that the 59 RI grant awardees neither reflected a gender, regional nor sector balance as well as acknowledging further that a number of beneficiaries based mostly in Europe were not even registered as business in the country, the ministry of commerce hopes and assures that its cooperation with SBF shall result in the contrary.

Now out of the reported 1,750 applications received during Round 1 from a wide variety of different niches and fields including agriculture, fisheries, salt, meat, financial services, mining for various minerals and precious metals, mining for gas, mining for oil and much more, SBF whittled the applicants to the successful 59 who shared small grants worth a total of $2 million dollars.

The Unfair play Issues that have been raised by the complaints of the Round I procedures include

• “facade companies” who were awarded without registration or simply registered for the purpose of getting the grants from the SBF and never had any licenses from the Ministry of Commerce nor had any offices or businesses operating

• SBF staff on the ground Interfered in the process and had a hand in all the decisions from start to finish thus assistance and supervision given to specific number of people which enabled them to complete their applications ahead of time and meet all the criteria required for shortlisting and increase their chances to get the grant

• Lack of proper information regarding the priority sectors of the economy and the preferred areas for funding, this information was given to specific people with the intention to give them an unfair advantage over the rest of the applicants

• A number of Grant applicants alluded to demands for outset payment of kickbacks (between 10% and 20% of the grant value) if their applications were made successful and those who were felt to be “reliable” were then shortlisted for the final list, we have failed to ascertain this fact thus remains an insinuation.

These allegations were also submitted to the World Bank by the Somaliland Private Sector Development Forum-SPSDF http://somalilandsun.com/index.php/in-depth/2569  which pleaded for intervention as People in other regions of the country felt that they have been denied of the opportunities and resources donated to them by the international community through the World Bank through corruption and incompetence.

The SPSDF further hoped that the World Bank will heed to its concerns and give it the opportunity to help investigations to find out what really went wrong with the first round of the SBF before commencement of RII grants procedures

While these shall remain insinuations the bone of contention emanate from an SBF press statement http://somalilandbusinessfund.com/index.php/news-a-events/24  that informed that of the Round I grants one third would be for women and 40% for youth while 40% of the supported projects are based outside of Hargeisa.

This SBF figures are not in-line with the reality as per the actual distribution as pertains to Round I that reflect to the contrary thus the alleged misconduct within the SBF selection process that saw realities on the ground in dispute with those at the office

From the list of the 59 SBF awardees our statistics that dispute the SBF press statement show that:

• Only 11 (18.6%) are women while the SBF claims 40%

• Out of the 59 successful grantees 43 (73%) come from Maroodi-jeeh region, read, Hargeisa and its surrounding areas. SBF claims 60%

• 36 of those 43 grantees (61%) come from the Hargeisa city proper while

• The rest of the country got only 16 grantees (27%). SBF claims 40%

While this is a clear indication that the system was so unfair and heavily biased towards Hargeisa, further perusals show that a similar proportional bias as the nationwide one occurred within Hargeisa’s 36 grantees (61%) themselves.

After isolating the 36 business making 61% of the national total awarded Hargeisa thus the 36 becomes 100% the distribution thus

• 32 (88%) grants were awarded to beneficiaries from 26th June district

• 2 (5)% were awarded Ga’an libah District

• 2 (5)% were awarded Mahmud Haybe District and

• 0% to Ahmed Dagah district

With these statistics and without claiming the mathematical genius of Karl Francis it beats all sense how the SBF which has persistently refused to respond, will achieve its stated aim of creating Over 600 jobs in the country of which one third would be for women and 40% for youth from the round I projects.

To avoid the hue and cry that ensued after Round I and view of achieving desire outcomes of the Nobel World bank fronted consortium of donors the SBF Round II selection process should fully incorporate the Grants Advisory Panel (GAP) which is composed of senior officials from the Ministries of Planning, Livestock and Agriculture as well from Gollis University, SLNMA and Nagad Network

This GAP should be assisted by the proposed Technical committee of sector expats proposed to be established and with the inclusion of the USAID funded Partnership for Economic growth whose grants worth $900,000 ended without a single complaint from any quarters.

“In lieu of attracting similar damaging insinuations from intended beneficiaries the SBF should take a leaf from the very successful USAID funded Partnership for Economic growth grants program” says business lady Anab Mukhtar

With the aim of Domestic resource activation and in pursuit of Fair regional distribution Sector distribution balance the 13 Partnership grants awardees were distributed as

Maroodi-jeeh Region (Hargeisa) 4 30%

Togdeer Region (Burao) 4 30%

Sahil Region (Berbera) 2 15%

Awdal Region (Borama) 2 15%

Sool Region (Las Anod) 1 7.5%

The Somaliland Business Fund which aims to mobilize the creative energy and resources of the private sector to create jobs and improve incomes for Somalilanders would achieve all with the utilization of lessons learned by the USAID’s Partnership for Economic growth whose aims are similar to SBF’s.

SBF is a key part of the World Bank’s Private Sector Re-Engagement Project Phase II that supports the investment climate, fisheries and gums & resins value chains, solid waste management, and development of Berbera port and financial sector in Somaliland.

The program is financed by the Danish International Development Agency, the (UK) Department for International Development, and the World Bank State and Peace-building Fund and implemented by Landell Mills International Development Consultants, UK and managed by a local Fund Management Unit.

For related material visit http://somalilandsun.com/index.php/economic/2543

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