Confidential Fighting For Transparency
Luc Moers, the IMF Resident Representative in Tajikistan, has said that the results of the audits on Barqi Tojik, the national state energy company, and Talco, the national aluminum company, will remain confidential.
Although Moers did reveal that the audit uncovered numerous problems in accounting and bookkeeping, the decision to keep it confidential comes as a disappointment to journalists in Dushanbe. A bit of a betting pool over how scandalous the report will be, exposing juicy embezzlements or mismanagement in the company, was in the works.
One of my friends in Dushanbe who was assigned to write about the audit bitterly remarked,
Sounds like our Soviet-time experience. Some documents were marked ‘Strictly Confidential’ or ‘Fort Internal Use Only.’
Actually, it’s more fun than the bad old days. The corruption has gotten more extravagant and laughable.
The idea of the international audits of Barqi Tojik and Talco, as well as the NBT (National Bank of Tajikistan), was pushed by the IMF after the discovery of financial misreporting in the country. On April 2008 IMF Executive Board decided to stop further aid and loans to Tajikistan because of “inaccurate information” and asked Tajikistan to return $48 million in a six-month period.
When Ernst & Young published a short summary of their special audit report on the NBT in April 2009, it was like an explosion. The report said that the head of NBT, Murodali Alimardon, had been funneling about $1billion through a special scheme involving cotton production. Moers, commenting on the report, April 16, 2009 at the request of Asia-Plus, said:
For example, the fact that shareholders of Kredit Invest are themselves cotton investors and among the largest recipients of financing from Kredit Invest represents a conflict of interest.
The audit report was full of hot facts, familiar names, and huge sums. You can see why four months later Tajikistan’s journalists were watering at the mouth for the Barqi Tojik revelation, especially considering that company is run by a close friend of President Rahmon, Sharifkhon Samiev.
Snowballing complaints and multimillion corporate debts did eventually force Rahmon to axe Samiev a few months ago. But to paraphrase what one observer wrote at the time, Rahmon may have only succeeded in having a mountain give birth to a mouse.
As to Talco, the company has just undergone an expensive trial in London, losing $170 million in court expenses. Alas, the court agreement has not been disclosed, although the Dushanbe press reports that Talco’s export partners grew afraid when the presiding judges inquired into the exportation arrangement and the question of payments being funneled to small offshore companies in the Virgin Islands.
Probably knowing the possible results of the audits, Rahmon first fired and then has re-appointed the former head of Barqi Tojik to be director of the Norak hydropower station, while also promoting the former head of the NBT and hero of the Ernst & Young audit, Murodali Alimardon, to the position of Deputy Prime Minister — contrary to the Dushanbe press’ expectations of a long jail sentence.
So, what’s behind Moer’s decision? I suspect he doesn’t want anymore of the fired officials getting promoted. 😉