It was a pleasure for me, as someone who supports the efforts of Somaliland to improve their standard of living and to earn recognition as a sovereign state , to see the following tweet on my feed today from the nation’s Civil Service Commission: “Today, we officially suspended 1,252 ghost workers from the civil service after biometric registration of all
#Somaliland civil servants with the support of the World Bank. List of the names of the ghost workers is handed over to the Finance Minister for immediate action.” Today I would like to talk a bit about the problem of ghost workers as well as the ways that government corruption can be fought against by those governments that have the will to do so–and the mandate of their people to root out corruption in high places. While it is unfortunate that Somaliland, like the rest of the world, has to address such issues, it is fortunate for its own people (and the world at large) that it has the political will to root out corruption as best as it is able, and its example can help to counteract the tendency for political elites to encourage corruption.
As an American, corruption in the political elite is something that serves to cause problems within our own republic. Whether we are looking at politically motivated investigations by allegedly nonpartisan government agencies, or the killing that a spouse of a senator makes on the stock market likely from his wife’s insider knowledge, government corruption is something that even the best nations in our world have to deal with. The power that governments have to levy taxes, employ people, and contract for business and purchase goods and services all allow a space for those who wish to profit to find themselves a niche. Whether we are dealing with the problem of procurement, the passing of laws that benefit particular companies and individuals at the cost of the larger society, or whether we are looking at people who collect a wage without doing the duties that the wage is ostensibly paying for, that sort of corruption is rather endemic in our world and something that every nation has to face in its own way.
How has Somaliland chosen to address the corruption it faces? For one, it has used biometric registration to identify more than 1,000 people who have been on government payroll who have not belonged there. Such people have been removed from their positions and referred to the proper authorities for prosecution. One social media user named Medeshi has also reported on other anti-corruption efforts:
#Somaliland – I am glad that Muse Bihi is working hard in eradicating corruption in the country. I know that he has removed the ghost workers from the presidency. I also heard that the government vehicles are being tagged to avoid theft and illegal selling. @musebiihi All of this, intriguingly, has come from the efforts of using biometric data to prevent voter fraud that the nation dealt with earlier, as well as the reporting of some brave journalists who unfortunately ended up in jail for their troubles. No one is saying that the efforts to stop corruption are without cost, either in terms of the technology and regulations that one uses to root out corruption or with regards to the people whose efforts to bring corruption to light are not always viewed as desirable by those who profit from the corruption that exists within a given society.
What are some obvious lessons that others can take away from Somaliland’s actions. For one, the moral health of a nation depends a great deal on the people itself. Journalists willing to write about corruption and bring it to light where it can be eradicated even at the risk of their own freedom and safety–as opposed to those who seek to corruptly bring down free governments like the WaPo–are to be celebrated. Likewise, the technical means exist to help root out corruption of various kinds, but much more difficult to find is the political will to root out corruption. So long as people profit from corruption, in some way, they will find it difficult to speak out against it, and it is important not only to have free and fair elections but also to have a populace that is motivated to punish corrupt leaders and remove them from office, or to have governments that are willing to work against the corruption one finds in entrenched bureaucracies, even at some pain to those people who seek to utilize the corruption of public service as ways of increasing their own standard of living by feathering their nest illegitimately. Hopefully other nations can look to Somaliland as an example of how corruption may be overcome.
 See, for example: