Controversy Over $200,000 Election Live Coverage contract puts UNSOM and Somalia Government at loggerhead

Ministry of Information has objected UNSOM’s  issuance of a contract to Kenya  based Tele-communication   company  to beam live stream of the presidential election and instead scrapped given the rights to local company Somali Optic

The contract which is to be financed by UN is worth some USD 200,000 but Ministry of Information insists UNSOM overlooked local companies and instead contracted CATS the Nairobi based company contrary to Somali Laws

Radio Dalsan is privy to email correspondence between the Ministry and UNSOM in which the former demanded for a scrapping of the contract issued to the Kenya registered company since the UN agency  failed to consult it. The correspondence show that the ministry has also reported the matter to the Immigration Department

The Ministry had earlier issued a list of local media stations which it said were capable of beaming a live stream of the elections which is set for later this January

The list included tele communication companies Horn Connect, Hormuud, Fibre Optic Network and Tv stations Universal, Horn Cable, Somali Cable and  SNTV

The recently concluded Speakers and MPs elections  were beamed live by SNTV

“SNTV has successfully provide a Somali owned and Somali led live streaming to elections of Speaker of the Parliament the sworn in ceremony  for Mps and it will continue until the elections of President . Somalia  moves on” Eng Abdirahman Osman a senior advisor  to the Ministry and former Minister posted on his facebook account  in an apparent  protest to UNSOM’s move

The UN agency has however  chosen to be tight lipped over the reports that it had rejected applications by local Somali communication companies

“I am not aware of any misunderstanding. Can you gve me any more information as to the nature of the misunderstanding that you have heard about” Cassandra Nelson Director of Communications  at UNSOM told Radio Dalsan through  email when we contacted the office

An insider at the Ministry of Information claims that UNSOM has been on a campaign to discredit and allegedly sent emails to the UK, US, EU and other embassies claiming that the government owned SNTV had declined to be contracted for the live streaming

A source in the Ministry says they are seeking an intervention by UNSOM top chief  Michael Keating to conduct an investigation in to the alleged behavior by his staff

The push and pull between the Ministry and UNSOM is already causing an outcry among private tv stations. Most private stations seem to be backing UNSOM over the matter concerned over what they say is possible government interference  that may see some control on who  receives the beam and who doesn’t  if SNTV  has the last word

“That means we will be under  SNTV  so we don’t get to control what SNTV wants. If it wants to shut down the live beam it can do so without any protest. We have in the past been denied to beam directly from our satellites ” Sharmake the Director of  private tv station SBC told Radio Dalsan

Somali Independent Media House Association has also also raised its voice over the matter with its Deputy Chairman Mohamed Haji Barre  calling for the government to let tv and radio stations beam independently

“The government must respect  and create an atmosphere of a free media” Barre said

“In such a situation the government will control any access to election information” Ahmed Muse a political analyst saying that the UN should  come in to resolve the matter

An email from Radio Dalsan to Muhamad Abdi Hayr Marey  seeking to have its side of the story remained unanswered

An official who declined to be named told Radio Dalsan that the Kenya based company did not go through the normal procurement procedure before giving the contract

Critics say that UN has overlooked its mandate and policy to give priority to local companies in such contracts if they have the capacity as one way of rebuilding Somalia