By: Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Lawyer, Kampala Uganda, MAR/12/2017, SSN;
Corruption has become meaningless since it has become a common topic in South Sudan. Because of that it no longer appeals to many people as it has become monotonous. However, what is clear is that corruption is increasing day and night in South Sudan as it is indicated by various reports. And each time the report on corruption is released corruption is shown to be eating the society to the core as it permeates every part of the system.
Thus, in this article, I intend to comment on the impact of corruption in general and with specific regard to the recent report on corruption scandals in the South Sudan Crisis Management Committee (CMC) of 2013.
The CMC was formed in the aftermath of the outbreak of civil war in 2013. It was made up of several Government ministers and some technocrats. The purpose of the CMC was to manage crises that were caused by the civil war in order to help citizens that were affected by the war.
Nonetheless, it was sad to discover through the report that the CMC became a Corruption Management Committee (CMC). Worryingly, the report on the CMC showed that the whole system of the Government of South Sudan is rotten. This is because it appears that majority of the people working in the government have lost the conscience, the spirit and the sense of humanity.
Hence, in this article as I have already pointed out above, I would like to comment on corruption scandals in South Sudan in general and in specific reference to the Crisis Management Committee or Corruption Management Committee as referred to above. For that reason, I have to begin with the meaning of corruption itself and then I discuss corruption in general and with specific reference to the corruption scandals that were reported in the CMC.
Thus, corruption t is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. It may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries.
Government, or ‘political’, corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Stephen D. Morris, a professor of politics, writes that [political] corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.
In addition, Economist Ian Senior defines corruption as an action to (a) secretly provide (b) a good or a service to a third party (c) so that he or she can influence certain actions which (d) benefit the corrupt, a third party, or both (e) in which the corrupt agent has authority.
Daniel Kaufmann, from the World Bank further extends the concept of corruption to include ‘legal corruption’ in which power is abused within the confines of the law as those with power often have the ability to make laws for their protection.
Corruption in general can occur on different scales. There is corruption that occurs as small favors between a small number of people (petty corruption), corruption that affects the government on a large scale (grand corruption), and corruption that is so prevalent that it is part of the everyday structure of society, including corruption as one of the symptoms of organized crime.
In relation to South Sudan, it has to be noted that corruption does not only affect the government on a large scale (grand corruption) but permeates everyday structure of society. According to U4 Expert Answer of Transparency International, in South Sudan corruption is present in all sectors of the economy and at all levels of the new state apparatus.
In this respect, U4 observes that corruption is manifested in various forms, including financial and political corruption, patronage, pervasive tribalism and misuse of power.
As cited in theU4 Expert Answer of Transparency International, the latest Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer found that those respondents who have had contact with nine public institutions (police, education, judiciary, medical services, land services, tax revenue, customs, registry/permit), reported paying bribes in the past 12 months.
The citizens’ experience with corruption is significantly high in dealing with the police (where of those in contact with the police reported paying bribes), registry/ permit services, and the judiciary, and land services.
Coming to the reasons for paying bribes, the Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer observed that the majority of Southern Sudanese stated that they paid bribe in order “to avoid a problem with the authorities” or “to speed things up” the process.
Sadly enough, corruption in South Sudan is something which is deeply rooted in the nature of the people and the system. The Government of South Sudan is dominated by the military elite which is strongly fragmented and marked by competing clientelist networks along tribal and ethnic lines (see; U4 above).
In reality, the diverging interests are kept in balance around the President Salva Kiir which makes the regime susceptible to the demands of the many competing groups and thus open to corruption and clientelism.
Corruption in South Sudan has its root in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), 2005. This is because the way the PA in 2005 was designed was only to favour warlords not to answer the issues of transparency and accountability.
For instance, the CPA established the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) that was only concerned with how to integrate potential rebels and rewarding allies by appointing them to senior lucrative or symbolic posts.
Such appointments consumed large proportions of the state budget with ministries, agencies and commissions growing in number. In fact, National and State Parliaments serve above all as instruments of patronage engineered by the President of Southern Sudan and now the President South Sudan.
The system became a cultural medium of corruption in which the deadly corrupt practices flourished. Hence, the government officials and army generals began siphoning national resources to the neighbouring countries where they built for themselves huge mansions. The recent report entitled: TheSentry.org War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the looting and destruction in South Sudan September 2016, supports this assertion.
The Sentry Report pointed out that several of the most powerful politicians and generals in South Sudan appear to have accumulated significant wealth in the decade since the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the North-South war and laid the groundwork for the self determination referendum that resulted in South Sudan’s independence in 2011.
In addition, the report found that much of the wealth that has been accumulated by these top leaders is in the form of high end properties outside the country and extensive commercial holdings in both public sector and oil services contracting in South Sudan.
The Sentry Report further found that members of the families of both President Kiir and Vice President Machar reside in luxurious homes outside of South Sudan, including homes in one particular upscale neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Sentry’s investigation indicates that Gen. Malong,(the Current Chief of General Staff) who makes roughly $45,000 per year through his government salary, has at least two luxurious villas in Uganda in addition to a $2 million mansion in a gated community in Nairobi.
The Sentry Report investigation further indicates that one of Gen. Malong’s houses in Kampala, Uganda, is located next door to a home maintained by Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak, a South Sudanese general subject to a UN mandated asset freeze and travel ban a move that should have effectively frozen any of his assets and barred him from traveling outside the country.
In addition, the same report pointed out that Gen. Malek Reuben Riak has a house inside a walled compound just a few miles away from Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak referred to in the above paragraph. The Report pointed out that unexplained wealth such as this should be enough to provide authorities with a reasonable basis for investigating the sources of that wealth and whether any wrongdoing occurred.
In addition, the Report pointed out that immediate family members of South Sudan’s top officials have held commercial ventures throughout the country’s most lucrative business sectors contrary to South Sudanese law, which makes it illegal for the holders of constitutional office to be engaged in any business alongside the government business.
Apart from the Sentry Report cited above, the recent Report on how the CMC managed resources allocated to the war affected communities was managed further confirmed that South Sudan government system is rotten as the whole government system is corrupt to the core.
The Report on CMC 2013 listed the national ministers and other government civil servants, MPs and individuals with the amount of money in South Sudanese pounds (SSP) and dollars, which they have stolen.
For the sake of those who have not come across that report, I am going to list them below as they were reported as follows:—
—Hon. Obuto Mamur Mete, Minister for National Security is reported to have stolen 8,575,000 SSP;
—Hon. Akol Paul Kordit Deputy Ministers of Information is reported to have stolen 444,345 SSP;
—Bol Wek Agoth Acting Chief Administrator, Office of the President 173,594;
—Hon. John Gai Yoh Presidential Advisor for Education 233,437;
—Hon. Bol Makueng SPLM Secretary for Information and Culture 91,896;
—Hon. Machok Majong Member of Parliament, SSLA 412,500;
—Hon. Beda Machar Deng Former Minister of Agriculture 197,024 Hon.
—Kwong Danhier Former Minister of Transport 47,996;
—Hon. Lang Tap Luom 20,170;
—Hon. Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro Minister of Cabinet Affairs 400,000;
—Hon. Dr. Nadia Arop Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture 9,592;
—Hon. Lily Albino Akol Former Deputy Minister of Agriculture 25,579;
—Hon. Rebecca Joshua Minister of Roads and Bridges 27,356
—Hon. Mat Ruot Member of Parliament, SSLA 13,950;
—Hon. John Juac Member of Parliament, SSLA 22,560;
—Hon. John Manyual Member of Parliament, SSLA 13,950;
—Hon. John Chuol Member of Parliament, SSLA 26,900;
—Gen. Nang Chol 114,240;
—Jiath Yual 14,880;
—Hon. Ali Adian Member of Parliament, SSLA 43,400
—Hon. Chuol Rambang Chairperson of South Sudan Peace Commission 31,000;
—Hon. Niota 25,000;
—Biong Mijok Deng 45,000;
—Deng Kuol Awor 18,600;
—Dr. Tilahum Hailemariam 649,400;
—Deng Mador Deng Office Manager to Presidential Advisor on Military Affairs
—Hon. Gen. Awet Akot 130,800;
—Hon. Kom Kom Geng Member of Parliament, SSLA 148,500;
—James Daniel Chaung 605,000;
—Martin Mabil 10,146
—Domai Gatpan 13,603;
—Mrs. Mary Paul 51,648;
—Nhial Daniel 17,862;
—Hon. Stephen Wiw Bichok Member of Parliament SSLA 106,220;
—Mrs. Nyatut Mai 5,786;
—Biel Boutros Civil Society Activist 102,409;
—Stephen Yar 70,664; Peter Lam Both Former Governor of Latjor State 76,532;
—Deng Chol 70,545;
—Mrs. Cecilia Adeng Former Officer Manager of the President (now Senior Diplomat at South Sudan Embassy in United Arab Emirates) 112,494;
—Hon. Peter Bashir Gbandi Minister of Parliamentary Affairs 21,924;
—Kueth Kong Kueth 26,075; Puok Bol Mut 2430;
—James Gatkor Wedial 20,390;
—Mrs. Elizabeth Nyawai 17,468;
—Mrs. Adut Salva Kiir Daughter of the President 14,000,000;
—Mrs. Mary Yual Badeng 17,152;
—David Kueth 12,172;
—Kutin Bayak Gil 21,008;
—Sarah Benjamin Gabriel 34,560;
—Emelda Modi 48,500;
—Michael Chute Lul 33,120;
—Ali Atem Biar Jonglei State Coordination Officer 3,000,000;
—James Deng Wal Senior Cashier, Office of the President 4,000,000;
—Hellen Andrea Juma Senior Cashier, Office of the Vice President 26,690,416;
—Bosco Eluzai Mabe Private Secretary to the Vice President 1,000,000;
—James Deng Malim National Security Service Officer, Internal Security Bureau (ISB) 2,138,336;
—Clement Vito 1,500,000;
—Mabior Nhial Mabior Senior Cashier, Office of Vice President 45,924,600;
—Bass Petroleum Ltd 600,000;
—Everest General Trading 2,000,000;
—Office of the President 25,000,000;
—Internal Transfer 47,694,663.
The reports and other examples of corruption discussed above show that corruption in South Sudan is among the worst in the world. In reality, the nation’s elites have developed a kleptocratic system that controls every part of the South Sudanese economy. This system has taken shape quickly in a relatively short period (2005-2016).
In fact, South Sudan having won self-rule in 2005 while remaining part of Sudan, and having been accorded full sovereignty in 2011, it has become one of the most corrupt in the world as it ranked fifth on Transparency International’s 2014 list of most corrupt nations, preceded only by Somalia, North Korea, Sudan, and Afghanistan.
One of the things that make it hard to fight corruption in South Sudan is that the leadership itself is corrupt and because of that there is no political will to fight corruption. As a result, the authorities are not willing to come up with regulations to combat frauds and mismanagement of country’s resources among the senior government officials, especially among government procurement officials within the ministry of finance and economic planning.
For example, the degree of corruption and mismanagement revealed in the Auditor General’s report for 2005 and 2006 reportedly “brought some MPs in South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly to tears.” A 2012 report on corruption found out that more than $4 billion in government funds had been stolen since the advent of self-rule in 2005.
Sadly, the major corruption scandal in the history of South Sudan is what so-called “Dura Saga.” “Dura Saga” came about in 2008 as at that time South Sudan was expecting a famine and because of that it paid nearly $1 million (according to a 2013 report by the Voice of America), for cereals that were never delivered. This became known as the “Dura Saga,” after the South Sudanese name for sorghum (Dura).
World Bank auditors’ report on “Dura Saga” found in February 2013 that 290 firms were paid without ever having signed a contract and another 151 firms were overpaid significantly. A criminal probe launched in the wake of this audit sought to ascertain why the contractors were paid for goods that never arrived, why the prices were so high, and if government officials were involved in the scandal. The probe was to be led by Prosecutor General Filberto Mayout Mareng.
Moreover, a February 2012 report by the Sudan Tribune described the Dura Saga as the largest and most costly corruption scandal in South Sudan since the nation’s founding in 2005, and maintained that it involved the disappearance of not just one million but several billion dollars that had been allocated for the building and repair of grain stores and the purchase of grain.
In a June 2012 article written by Dr. Jok Madut Jok, Under Secretary of the National Ministry of Culture, put the missing amount at $4 million and added the funds are somewhere among the traders who falsely claimed to have delivered the grain, the governors who lied about the grain delivery or were criminally negligent, or the ministers of finance in Juba who approved payments for more than double the national budget.
In addition, it is reported that a list of 81 fake companies that had allegedly been involved in the scandal was posted online in January 2013, along with appropriated amounts for each firm ranging from 400,000 to 2,000,000 pounds.
Among those blamed for the scandal were Michael Makuei Lueth, Parliamentary Affairs minister, whose then-ministry had registered the companies, and Benjamin Bol Mel, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of the ABMC construction company, ABMC, who wrote to President Kiir to insist payment for the bogus contracts.
In short, corruption in South Sudan has reached disproportionate level as it consumed the resources and because of that services no longer reach ordinary citizens who are now struggling for bare survival. I fear that the pending hunger will claim thousands of lives of ordinary South Sudanese who have nothing to avert the hunger.
Also, due to corruption, education and health sectors have been ignored as teachers live a life of dogs and beggars. This is because thieves have stolen money of the nation which they use for their personal benefits in seeking for personal medical attention abroad and also use in sending their children to study abroad.
Because of corruption, the vision of South Sudan of achieving justice, liberty and prosperity is lost and the question is: where is South Sudan? South Sudan died long time ago when it was symbolically buried in a coffin in 2005. In 2005 the government officials in collaboration with the army generals could steal money and carry it in coffins like a dead person. This was the time when we buried South Sudan symbolically.
Thus, even if we cry day and night about the need for reforms in South Sudan as a country but the fact is that South Sudan is lost it through corruption. The process of good governance is founded on good conscience and ethics. However, in a situation like one we have in South Sudan where conscience and good ethics are lost to amoral acts, good governance is automatically lost. Consequently, the nation of South Sudan is lost.
In summary, South Sudan is lost in corruption. In order to reclaim it, there is a need for all patriotic citizens to stage a war against mismanagement of national resources by marking those whose names appear on any corruption report as indicated above to make sure that they are relegated from politics.
Without fighting against corruption, South Sudan will remain in limbo of development and citizens will suffer due to poverty, hunger, illiteracy, ignorance and diseases. For instance, the current hunger reported to be at the horizon of South Sudan was partly caused by corruption and more hungers of the same magnitude are on the way unless we fight bad governance and corruption in general.
NB/the author is South Sudanese human rights lawyer and can be reached through: email@example.com