8 Aug 2020


How The Rampant Embezzlement Can Be Wrestled Mr President

"Mr President, what is setting apart the degree of corruption in South Sudan from the rest of the world is the extreme lack of control and monitoring mechanisms."

An Open Letter to President Kiir

By Agok Takpiny*

Mr President, as you and the rebel leader Dr Riek Machar recommitted yourselves to unfasten the current unfortunate carnage in our young nation by agreeing to form a transitional government in due course, South Sudanese are tightly holding their fingers crossed. Majority of South Sudanese are living under unimaginable conditions in their own country. Hunger or famine as has been widely speculated is looming large. Thousands of lives have been unnecessarily lost and three major towns in ruin. In short, the pain, which South Sudanese are undergoing, is arguably more severe than what we have experienced in our previous wars.

Notwithstanding the relieved that would come with the final peace deal (if you our leaders keep your commitment), I have a feeling that South Sudanese’s dignity will not be restored anytime soon. Our image has been tainted in the global arena Mr President, we are a laughing species of Africa.

In fact The Fragile States Index 2014 released this June by FFP placed South Sudan on top of the list before Somalia. Who would have thought that we would be worse than Somalia after just two years of independence? 

 Mr. President, as much as I believe the history of the attempted coup by Riek Machar in December 2013, which brought the current mayhem, we are not the only country at war with ourselves. Syria has been at war for the last three years, Libya too had been at war with itself, and nevertheless, they are not even on the top ten of the Fragile States Index 2014. In the eyes of outsiders Mr President, no single institution in your government is or has been functioning accordingly.

The world see your government as a joke Mr President, all the ministries have wasted and embezzled staggering sum of money in the last nine years of your tenure. Corruption is a weapon that undermines the credibility of public institutions. It attacks the morality of justice and damages society. This is where the unwanted ranking come from Mr President. We need to get our act together to clean our dirty image.

Some of the readers of this letter may argue that poor management of national resources is synonym to Africa (i.e. not just South Sudanese problem). It is true that corruption throughout Africa and indeed in other parts of the world is widespread, however, the grand scale of corruption in our country is in my opinion second to none. In fact it is a slow pace robbery of national resources by those entrusted to manage them. There are many forms of corruption, however, the focus here is on embezzlement.

In fairness, nevertheless, our politicians are not the only ones with meandering of uprightness. It is a known fact that corrupt politicians all over the world are opponent of the truth; their virtues and ethics are scarce.

However, Mr President, what is setting apart the degree of corruption in South Sudan from the rest of the world is the extreme lack of control and monitoring mechanisms. It is this dire deficiency of controlling measures that made every sub-tribe want to have one of their son/daughter to be a minister. In other countries, a minister is someone who the president see fit to make departmental decisions and implement them on behalf of the president; in other word, a minister does too little to represent his/her constituency in the parliament where legislations are made, instead a minister become a national leader who must represent the whole country.

Mr President, the reason why every sub-tribe outrageously goes ballistic when one of their beloved son/daughter miss out in the appointment for the ministerial position during reshuffling, or when their son/daughter is removed from the ministerial position is because they see ministerial position as a house for money laundering and embezzlement that everyone should have a slice of.

Mr President, you would agree with me that the reason why we only have tarmac roads inside some parts of Juba and not a single modern freeway built in the country is not because South Sudan from 2005 to present doesn’t have enough money.

Mr President, the reason we don’t have clean running water in the whole of Juba, let alone all other major towns across the country, is not because South Sudan doesn’t have enough money.

Mr President, the reason why no single modern hospital is built in Juba or any other major town across the country is not because South Sudan cannot afford to build a modern hospital.

Mr President, the reason why the outdated Russian made bomber (Antonov) in the hands of SAF is still a threat and continue to fly at will in the skies of South Sudan is not because South Sudan cannot afford to buy basic and old defence system that can easily take Antonov down and assured the citizens that they are safe from the sky.

Mr President, the reason why the deafening portable generators are still polluting the air with noise in Juba is not because South Sudan cannot afford to build temporary power station or buy four or three large generators which can be stationed outside the town and can still provide the city with limited power (electricity in mornings and evenings till midnight).

Mr President, the reason why thousands of children are still learning under trees is not because South Sudan cannot afford to provide ninety percent children with classrooms.

The list is long Mr President but you get the idea. The idea is that your government need to put in place some measures to reduce the rampant embezzlement of public money, which has been continuing undeterred for many years.
Mr President, your anti-corruption body is toothless and ineffective. It is true that without effective law enforcement, which is essential to corroborate anti-corruption efforts, the anti-corruption body can be a mere veil. What your government should have done, Mr President, is to give more powers and autonomy to law enforcement agencies which should be part of anti-corruption teams to detect and punish any public or government official, along with any public servant who violates corruption laws.

Mr President, everyone in South Sudan knows and appreciates your outstanding contribution to the liberation of the South Sudanese people from the rogue Islamic regimes in Khartoum. Many of us who grew up during the war have unquestionable loyalty to you because of your unwavering services to the people of South Sudan.

However, as is often the case with human beings, Mr President, people tend to remember a person’s shortcomings more than his/her outstanding achievements. Mr President, the inability of your government to yet hold a single public servant accountable for the despicable and shameful continuous embezzlements of public monies is potentially destroying your revered legacy.

Mr President, any ordinary person in the street today would tell you that in the court of law, one party must be guilty and the other acquitted. However, the missing $30millions: scandal between Arthur Akuin Chol and Pagan Amum defies that logic of ordinary concept Mr President. If the two gentlemen are innocent, I guess we can conclude that an alien has made a surprise appearance in South Sudan and took the money with it, there is no any other way, Mr President, to explain where that huge sum of money has gone. Anyhow, let us not dwell on this extensively.

Mr President, to preclude similar scenarios like the infamous Dura saga, where 6 billion South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) was embezzled, it is imperative that your government enact procurement law.

Mr President, your government need to establish an independent PROCUREMENT agency to deal with all purchases.  Mr President, I know that building 21th century roads, providing citizens with adequate electricity, building modern hospitals and equip them with well-trained doctors, providing citizens with clean water, and building grain stores across the country to fight hunger, are some of your priorities.

 Mr President, your ability to deliver services to help achieve these outcomes depends, to varying degrees, on the effective procurement of goods and services. Effective procurement not only means getting the best value out of the money that the public has entrusted to your government, but also behaving ethically at all times and being accountable for processes and outcomes.

Procurement simply means: establishing what the project needs, locate the suppliers, obtain the quotes and compare them, evaluate the suppliers, enter negotiations with few selected suppliers, award the contract to a supplier that meet the desired price and the desired time frame for the completion of the project  or delivery of goods, and finally pay the supplier.

I previously made a comment in the editorial article on southsudannation.com that “South Sudan is the only country on earth where a minister can award the contract to the supplier without first verifying whether or not the supplier actually do have a business on which the contract is based upon”.

The alleged mischievous transfer of $7,959,400 to Daffy Investment Group (ST) by Deng Alor Kuol in 2013 perfectly depicted that. As things stand, after probing by the investigative committee that your government set up, it turned out that Daffy Investment Group is fictional, it never existed Mr. President.

Additionally, as stated by Abraham Awolich from The Sudd Institute, in the Dura saga probe “The World Bank found that 290 companies were paid without signing any contracts with the government and 151 companies were overpaid”. If we critically evaluate all these so called companies, Mr President, we would surely find out that the majority of them don’t exist. They are ghost entities. Astonishingly still, no single individual has been held accountable.

To impede such behaviours from surfacing in the future, your government need to act speedily to enact procurement law and establish the procurement board. Mr President, nothing come cheap in this age of ours, if you intend to get competent person who can do the job on your behalf, they need to be fully compensated.

Mr President, an independent procurement board need a CEO with expertise in the area of procurement, he/she doesn’t have to be South Sudanese. We need help Mr President, thus it is advisable to recruit the CEO for the procurement agency from anywhere in the world. We need a knowledgeable individual who will be able to help create certain rules and responsibilities, and make sure that all ministers understand them.

In conclusion, it would be naïve to think that better procurement processes alone will reduce corruption. Mr President, it takes prosecution of corrupt officials for reforming to take root, I know finding judges who are willing to convict these criminals is ridiculously onerous. This is because lawyers are themselves corrupt or fear retributions. However, without trying and convicting corruptors, the embezzlement of public money will continue.

Disclaimer: views expressed in this article, as in all other opinions published by Gurtong, are the opinions of the authors.

* Agok Takpiny is a concerned South Sudanese in Melbourne Australia. He can be reached on agoktakpiny@ymail.com

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