In the last three weeks, Puntland Mirror has been investigating allegations of serious irregularities, malpractice and corruption in Garowe City Tree Planting Project implemented by CARE international. The investigators have examined documents in relation to the project and interviewed Garowe City officials as well as experts on tree plantations and natural resource management.
On February 15, 2017, Garowe City Councillors invited the media to witness their observational visits to the tree planting sites in Garowe City under Garowe City Tree Planting project implemented by CARE international and funded by European Union (EU).
In a press conference held in Garowe, members of Garowe City Council’s Inspections and Quality Control team have laid out their findings of serious irregularities and failure to meet up to the agreed tree planting specifications. Hon. Mowlid Aw-Ahmed Yousuf has questioned the transparency and fairness of the project bidding and awarding process, as well as its implementation, monitoring and evaluation mechanism. Hon. Mowlid has also strongly condemned the poor quality of the works and the blatant attempt to disregard the agreed standards. He also presented an ongoing study and monitoring of the project by the City Councillors and accused CARE International of complicity of these failures.
“It was only yesterday that we have been made aware of the inception of the tree planting project of CARE international in Garowe City,” he said. “The Garowe local government did not know much about the bidding and awarding of the project as it was not involved in the Tendering and Awarding process. However, the City Council welcomes this long awaited project and would like to thank the European Union for its generous assistance,” he added graciously.
Hon. Mowlid continued that “After we learnt the inception of the project, we looked into the City Council’s role in the project planning and implementation processes and scrutinized the project design and job specifications including number of trees, plant types, distances between planting sites, depth and width of the pits, drainage and after care of the trees.”
Hon. Mowlid suggested that they were signs that the officially agreed project design, specification and scope of work have not been followed. One of the more serious allegations is that the project was awarded unscrupulously to a fledgling company which is not registered with the local government, a major requirement for companies doing work in Garowe City.
Mr. Mowlid has listed examples of failings, irregularities and poor quality of work. He said: “The signed agreement between CARE international and the European Union is clear. It specifies that a planting tree pit should be dug to a depth of 1 meter and a width of 80*80 (square cm), fenced of a height of 1.8m. Mowlid explained, “Our assessment on the work carried out so far by the contractor reveal that only 0.5 m depth and width of 20 * 20 cm have been dug.”
On January 5, 2017, CARE International has secretly initiated the bidding process for Garowe City Tree Plantation project for the main roads and government institutions. The Quotation Request Letter was released and signed by CARE International head of procurement, Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Hassan.
Puntland Mirror has learnt that CARE International did not widely publicize the project tender and the posting of Quotation Request Letter. Puntland Mirror has also learnt that, as the above Quotation Request letter indicates, all requesting companies were required to meet the following basic requirements, including:-
- Valid company Registration
- Pre- experience on tree planting
- Updated Bank statement and
- Detailed work plan
Similarly, the Quotation Request Letter was point out how to carry out the plantation:-
- Excavation of square holes for planting of tress, 80cm by 80cm and 1 m deep below ground level
- Provision and mixing of manure and agricultural soil in ratio of 1:3 respectively
- Construction of brick wall around the pit hole using 40cmx20cm brick for steel holding and protection (wall dimension 1.2+1.2+1.2=4.8)
- Provision and installation of metal mesh each seeding square shape of 1.8m height and 0.70 m width with four legs and 0.20×0.20m opening for watering
- Purchase of tress seedlings that is healthier and mature to grow in this environment
The so-called Quotation Request Letter posed by the CARE international for plantation project in Garowe was not fully publicized, as Puntland Mirror has learnt during its investigations on this matter. The winner was not chosen in an open, fair and transparent bidding process but rather in a collusion of these two institutions, as key sources close to the CARE international and Puntland’s ministry of Environment, wildlife and Tourism confirmed to the Puntland Mirror.
“Top ministry of Environment officials and CARE international officials were locked themselves behind the doors, and presumably gave the project to a selected company’’, an official asked to remain anonymous told to the Puntland Mirror.
Chosen winner of the tender for Garowe planting project
The winner of tree planting project is called “Dhamas Construction & Rehabilitation Company.” As the name suggests, it is upstart construction company which has never accomplished any project in the area of the environment, tree planting or natural resource management. As Puntland Mirror has learnt in its investigation, this company is not registered at regulatory bodies especially Garowe City local government.
Sources confirmed to Puntland Mirror that since the legitimacy of the project contract award is in question, it would be prudent for Garowe City Council to request a full investigation into the bidding and awarding process of the project.
How has the tree plantation works been carried out?
Puntland Mirror investigators have visited all the planted sites in Garowe city undertaken by Dhamas, including main roads and government institutions, namely Garowe General Hospital.
The investigators officially apprehended that Dhamas Company didn’t carry out the work, and sidetracked as anticipated by both the donor’s and local administration’s plans.
The project given company has digged holes just 0.5 Meter deep and 20 Centimeter width* 20cm, as it was previously planned to be digged 1Metter deep down and 80cm width* 80cm square Meters. Similarly, Puntland Mirror apprehended also that Dhamas never fenced all it planted trees across Garowe, which is hinders for a plant to grow.
Dhamas didn’t plant the required street trees along the main roads. Instead it planted small fast growing trees which are not suitable at the main roads, and not favorable to the environment as warned by the environmentalists.
The distance between the tree planting sites (trees) brings another critique on the project. There is a long visible distance on the ground, which doesn’t read properly as planned, according to Puntland Mirror investigators’ physical view.
Does the apparent lack of knowledge and experience in tree planting hinder the project work?
Tree planting experts and environmentalist believe that the project work will be seriously hampered by the lack of knowledge and experience in tree planting of Dhamas Company. They argue that tree planting process has to be done in scientific way and not only does it entail suitable ground work such as soil testing, digging the pits with the right depth and width, drainage and soil loosening but will need knowledge on tree types, the weather and the seasons. One of the reasons why the right depth and width have to be dug is related to the unfavorable hard soil, low water table and the summer windy weather.
Knowledge on the Garowe City Tree Planting Project
It was on February 14th when the Puntland Minister of Environment, Mr. Ali Abdullahi Warsame witnessed the launch of Garowe City Plantation project along with officers from CARE International’s Garowe office, Puntland.
Puntland Ministry of Environment has publicly announced the launch of the CARE International’s plantation project in Garowe on 14, February 2017. Puntland Mirror understands this official unveiling event took place days after Dhamaswas awarded the contract and given the green light to start the project. This compounds the already suspicious trails of mismanagement in the project bidding process. It is not yet clear what the role of the Ministry is in relation to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the project.
The following day, the 15th February was the time when Garowe local administration officially has announced that the plantation project in Garowe was mishandled.
That day, the local councilors have requested the CARE international to glue the project’s pillars, as planned initially.
Other unaddressed issues
The project has not addressed very important issues such as the success ratio (survival rate) of the planted trees, replacement of unsuccessful planting attempts, irrigation and care after the planting.
What has CARE International and the Ministry of Environment said allegations of corruption on Garowe City Tree Planting project?
Puntland Mirror contacted officials of Care International and the Ministry of Environment in Garowe to comment on the allegations about the Garowe City Tree Plantation Project, but did not receive by the time of publication.
The investigators are in the middle of compiling these important evidences and will give both CARE International and the Ministry of Environment opportunity to provide answers and tell their version of events in the upcoming part two.
Garowe City Tree Planting project is a part of a huge project code-named ‘Environment is Life’ – with a four years life cycle – funded by the European Union aimed to increase green cover, improve the environment, and reduce food insecurity in Puntland through the better management of natural resources and the development of environmental preservations.
In the last two decades, Garowe City had been seen multiple attempts of plantation projects, which most of them failed insignificantly due to a flagrant, stinging corruption and mismanagement perpetrated by those in public offices and others in positions of trust.
According to Transparency International’s recent report, Somalia is the most corrupt country in the world, and has been there for quite some years. In Puntland, weak government institutions, ineffective audit office and lack of anti-corruption authority has led to excessive swindling of public funds and impunity for those who commit corruption and fraud.
Nevertheless, Puntland Mirror’s aim is to present to the public and expose those who mishandle the public funds by naming and shaming them, as cited by the website Chief Editor during this exclusive Investigation.
“As the word ‘Mirror’ insinuates, our job is to present to the public those who are engaged in corruption and fraudulent businesses, and those who over-use the powers entrusted to them.” Puntland Mirror Chief Editor, Abdi Omar said.
“Today, investigative journalism is ever becoming increasingly important and obligatory on all journalists across the World. We want to dig deep down, in order to understand and find those who trample and trash the law, abuse the legal processes and our special treatments,” the Chief Editor added.