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Norwegian Firm TGS Spent $10 Million On Geophysical Surveys In Somaliland Says Minerals Ministry Official
Mr. Suldan who was speaking at a press conference said that the Norwegian company has been carrying out ‘seismic and aeromagnetic surveys in Somaliland since 2007 as provided for in an agreement signed with the ministry on 2004’.
Mr. Suldan declined to disclose the terms of the agreement signed between the ministry and the TGS.
He has however attacked The Somaliland Times and its sister newspaper Haatuf, a Somali language daily, for reporting on corruption in the ministry’s dealings with oil and minerals exploration contractors.
During last month both papers ran stories on oil exploration contracts awarded to dubious foreign companies and individuals by the minister of Water and Minerals, Qassim Sheikh Yusuf.
In its March 22 edition, The Somaliland Times accused Qassim Yusuf of receiving bribes from foreign business entities seeking to secure oil exploration contracts.
An Indian businessman called Sood was cited by the newspaper as one of those who made payments to Qassim in return for securing oil exploration and production sharing agreement.
Mr. Qassim facilitated the deal with Mr. Sood whose only business experience has been low cost housing.
In an e-mail that he sent to The Somaliland Times on March 25, 2008, Mr. Sood threatened to sue the paper for $5 million in damages unless it apologized for having published the corruption allegations involving him and his company ‘Motherland Homes”.
Last week the ministry of Water and Mineral followed suit by announcing that it will take both The Somaliland Times and Haatuf to court for defamation.
The ministry’s director general avoided being specific while trying to address the issues raised by the reporters at the press conference. He for instance evaded questions as simple as what was the purpose of the survey being conducted by TGS and how the data collected would be used and by whom.
“It is only Haatuf that repeatedly asks why the survey was not put to an international tender instead of being awarded to TGS without bidding. Well, that is nonsense because you only solicit offers when you have the money for meeting your tender obligations. But we didn’t have such capabilities. Only TGS came forward to do the job.” Suldan said in response to no particular question asked.
Although ratification of international agreements by the House of Representatives is a constitutional requirement (article 53.3), however Mr. Suldan tried to circumvent this point by saying that there were two different aspects as to the interpretation of the provisions of the law itself.
Asked by Haatuf whether the ministry’s reluctance to submit oil exploration agreements to the House for ratification wasn’t a further proof that he and Qassim were hiding something from the public, Suldan responded by labeling the question as a personal attack.
Frustrated with Suldan’s constant evasions, Jamhuuriya described the press conference as disastrous for the ministry of Water and Minerals.
“The Director General totally failed to refute the allegations of corruptions brought against the ministry” Jamhuuriya said in its issue the day following Suldan’s press conference.
Source: Somaliland Times