South Sudan Fighting Corruption.

"It’s Easy to Condemn Corruption but Hard to Prosecute Corrupters..“TGoNU” with help of “JMEC” must dismiss, arrest, and confiscate the property of any government official who has embezzled or misappropriated public funds so that to win back the confidence of our citizens."

By Mabor Maker Dhelbeny

INTRODUCTION

The infamous word ‘corruption’ is a vice that has become one of the most lucrative industries in the world. It has become almost an acceptable way of life in Africa. Equally, corruption is an issue that undermined economic development, rule of law and reform in a good number of African countries.

In South Sudan, corruption has been compared to cancer that staggeringly but terminally eats into very social fabric of our society. For instance, the Transparency International in its corruption index, ranked South Sudan in position 171 out of 175 countries in the year 2014. Worse still, the World Bank had approximately estimated that 3.6 million people in South Sudan would fall under the poverty threshold, taking the poverty rates from 80% in 2013 to 90% in 2014 & 15 respectively. This demonstrates that any development to be achieved, South Sudan must confront this deadly ‘disease’ boldly.

WHAT IS CORRUPTION?

Corruption can simply be defined as the abuse of power or resources by the employed person(s) for personal gain at the expense of others. Who are others? These are the ordinary citizens in our country. Briefly, corruption means lack of honesty and unfairness in the conduct of official business for personal benefit. This evil phenomenon is mostly found in all countries in general, but in the developing countries such as South Sudan in particular in which its effects are most destructive. In any gathering, our leaders always speak loudly about corruption but to no avail.

During the swearing in ceremony of 28 governors on the 29th December, 2015 at J1 in Juba, H.E the Vice President, James Wani admitted in his remarks that “corruption has buried our country, - “don’t tolerate or stomach corruption and any corrupt minister should be punished publicly”. He added. 

Indeed, South Sudan faces the corruption problem and its efforts to combat the vice must be effective, otherwise government system will remain avenues for personal enrichment or else encourage kleptocratic system. If the “GRSS” needs to degenerate into a self-justifying society, mere condemnation and rhetoric statements as uttered by our leaders cannot and will not solve the problem of corruption but only to embark on putting measures in place to eliminate the incentives that make corruption thrive.

The phenomenon has corrosive effects on our citizens, because with this economic downturn, poor wage levels and weak institutions set-up, created a lot of room to exist for South Sudanese to indulge in corruption. Sadly enough, the South Sudanese citizens are not informed or do not know their rights; that’s why corruption hurts them disproportionately because money intended for building them hospitals, schools, water pipelines, roads and bridges has been diverted by the kleptocrats through unseen projects.

Over the last ten years, the South Sudan’s political leadership has tended to promote an environment where public offices have been reduced to personal fiefdoms. Instead of seeing political office as something to be used for public service delivery, they see such offices purely in terms of personal enrichment. This is the genesis of corruption in South Sudan, because the regulations of work or offices are totally ignored, not because people are being protected from the “above” but also they can easily escape any censorship.

Many people vie for political positions even if he or she is illiterate. Why? Just because to enrich themselves as they see and believe that corruption has been institutionalized since there were no convicts of the probe.  Probably, this makes me to agree with what Jonyo and Owuoche wrote long time ago that:

“The idea of corruption has become so institutionalized in Kenya to the extent that even in services that Kenyans have a right to they still end up paying or inducing the service providers. Such inducement makes an office to either engage in an act of omission or commission for a client’s favour. People in higher positions always hiding under their powerful portfolios, strategically place their courtiers and henchmen in positions of power so that they can “eat together” they added. (Jonyo and Owuoche, 2004:19).

Perhaps, this makes the corruption to become a corporate joint venture that connects patrons and clients in a patrimonial relationship. Hence, allowing South Sudan to be defrauded of millions dollars and pounds through such network of patron and client. It therefore undermines the ethics and integrity of public offices to the extent that services are bought and sold depending on a network of relationships. In this sense, Nile Petroleum Corporation, known as “NILEPET” including other “FOREX BUREAUS” in Juba where hundreds thousands of dollars vanished could be the live example, (see Radio Tamazuj website).

TYPES OF CORRUPTION              

In fact, there are different types of corruption but this writer will focus only on FOUR, which includes the following:

(1)  Administrative Corruption

This type of corruption refers to a situation in which an official system happened as iterative infringements of employees, and thus shared the ill-gotten benefits amongst themselves, which will result into the lack of efficiency and effectiveness of the system. In reality, those who practise the acts of taking bribery, cheating, fraud, extortion and nepotism while executing their duties in public offices, commit administrative corruption. Such behaviors of public employees, who commit these offences, came as result of ignoring accepted rules or code of ethics and norms including absence of accountability towards government policies and objectives in various institutions.

For example, “A foreign consultant witnessed a senior official at a ministry receive a brown envelope, count a wedge of cash around three inches thick, and then tell the person who had handed him the envelope ‘That’s fine’, you will get the contract on Monday.” (See A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts by James Copnall, 2014 at page136).

According to Radio Tamazuj, a corruption scandal in the Office of President, involving alleged acts of impersonation and forgery of President Kiir’s signature by the National Security Service (NSS) Officer named John Agou in June, 2015 which had also led to the suspension and arrest of the Chief Administrator and Executive Director, pending investigation which analysts believed to have complicated many government officials. (www.radiotamazuj.org/article/corruption) retrieved on 4/01/2016.

Worse still, this type of corruption is very common in South Sudan but nobody talks about it. This is because most people paid their attention on financial corruption, which will be discussed later after political corruption.

(2)  Political Corruption

It’s a type of corruption that involves engagement of the ruling party to marginalize and segregate members of the opposition party and overstay in power beyond the constitutional term of limits, ascending to power through coup de tats, insurgency, unlawful arrest and detention of people without fair trial, extra-judicial killings and injustice in the judiciary and many more. These acts of political corruption to those who practised them usually undermine social, political and economic cohesiveness in the development of our country.

Its practice, however, can create political intolerance and violence as we have seen or witnessed in the current ended conflict – the SPLM/A-IO rebellion and insurgency in the Greater Upper Nile region is a political corruption.

In some African countries – such as Somalia, Burundi, Libya, Sudan etc most civil political unrest witnessed was due to the political corruption.

This political corruption within the periphery of the SPLM ruling party would not have happened, had it been the other opposition political party. The SPLM led government would have therefore not allowed any opposition political party or any group to engage in such political corruption because their occurrence and practice have great negative impact to disrupt socio-economic development and political stability in the Republic of South Sudan.

The war imposed on us – as one of the SPLM officials echoed previously, had claimed 10, 000 lives, over 2 million South Sudanese displaced and more than hundred thousand of properties were lost according to the United Nations.

Financial Corruption

This type of corruption is the dishonest behavior of public and private sectors’ workers in discharging or executing their duties by taking bribery from consumers for the services rendered to them and stealing the institution’s money, including assets. It’s a type of vice that is widely practised and in full force in South Sudanese governments’ institutions. For instance, 60% of the government budget is allocated for security sector but still Ministry of Defense and Veteran Affairs and Ministry of Interior, became top in the list of financial corruption due to lack of transparency and accountability – as ghost names still exist in payrolls; exaggeration of parades in the army barracks and etc.

Hence, some non-combatant officers (NCOs) or junior officers, who were the cashiers, have built big houses for themselves at the expense of others, while most senior officers of the SPLA and organized forces built no houses. Nevertheless, such malpractice has already created indiscipline and classes amongst the soldiers in the army.

GOSS established Anti-Corruption Commission in order to discourage financial corruption in South Sudan. “SSAC” has been working tirelessly to eradicate corruption but its success is yet far-fetched and thus much more needs to be done. Since the inception of this Commission, no any government official has ever been prosecuted or imprisoned for financial corruption. The Commission only conducts investigation of suspected corrupt officials, yet people continue to commit the crime. It seems in my view, salaries are inadequate to cover monthly family expenses, and government civil servants (workers) have no alternative but to engage dishonestly in financial corruption. With this high cost of living in Juba, therefore such inadequate salaries will not commensurate with cost of living and workers or civil servants will remain financially corrupt, which will be detrimental to the development of our beloved country.

Surprisingly, the “CBoSS”, and “MoFEP” have over-valued South Sudanese pounds against dollars just for – floating economy and to throttle the black-market industry which in turn good for the fight against corruption, corrupters and bad for consumers as prices of commodities tripled sharply all over the markets.

In June, 2013, two ministers, Deng Alor and Kosti Manibe, were suspended to allow an investigation for financial corruption to take place. But analysts regarded as a political move because “SSAC” lacks powers to prosecute. The first suspension in March 2013 of the Chief of Administrator, Moulana Mayen Wol and Executive Director, Mr. Yel Luol, including the Controller of Accounts at presidency, after large sum of the amounts were stolen which later resulted into the dismissal of Nhomout Agoth, demonstrated that President Kiir is fighting corruption vigorously.

Again, President Kiir wrote a letter in May, 2012 to 75 senior government officials, telling them that if they return whatever money they took, they would not be prosecuted - $ 60 million dollars were eventually returned – only 1.5 per cent of what went missing, according to VOA.  

Urgently there’s a need to close the gap of – accountability, transparency and for the law to take its own course. As Edmond Yakani of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) puts it rightly that …”If you are fighting corruption and malpractice, suspension and reinstatement are not enough. The law must take its course”. He added.

Another worse scenario was the introduction of Letters of Credit (LCs) into the financial system by the Central Bank of South Sudan (CBoSS) including Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) which opened a Pandora box, as dealers and individuals well-networked in the system took advantage to siphon money intended to import commodities to our country without proper scrutiny to their private end. Some cases of such “LCs” reached the courts due to the fact that they were awarded to wrong companies – i.e. other companies were not even incorporated or registered in the Ministry of Justice before the award of “LCs”, while others applied with forged or faked names including those in brief – case companies. Meanwhile, dealers of referral letters for medical treatments abroad and rogue traders in the banks have also strangulated our economy.

Social Corruption

This type of corruption happened whence professions or government officials in power used to exploit members of other society. For instance, an employer can employ an employee through exchange of sexual exploitation. Something Sociologists called it – “Social corruption” or “Social phenomenon”. Therefore, when it develops and becomes a common practice, laws and social norms usually appear impotent. And if those people, who practised it, are not severely punished so as to obey enacted laws and social norms conscientiously, the phenomenon will be termed as “corruption has become a culture in our social lives”.

This has strongly been affirmed when ex child soldier Emmanuel Jal said: “If you’re corrupt in this country, you are considered clever. If you are not corrupt as a leader, you have no support; even your family will not support you because you are not able to get money to help them.”  Such an unequivocal crime seems not to be accepted by many people in South Sudan because it is more shameful than the practice of taking money as bribes or kickbacks. It is, however, a far worse practice, as it indicates that our collective morality is degenerating.

What does this social corruption mean? It means the dishonest behavior of having love affair with person, other than your wife or husband; rape, telling pack of lies and false allegations; domestic violence; human trafficking and child abuse; including tribalism, regionalism and nepotism.

Since 2005 of autonomous government, these acts of social corruption were practised rampantly in different parts of South Sudan. The study discloses that one of the undersecretaries in “GOSS” during interim period at the time has been dismissed due to social corruption for having sexual relationship with workers in the ministry. It has caused a severe impact that disrupts social cohesiveness in the country. Most of these illicit acts are carried out at various hotels in Juba town. But these hotels were built purposely for investment. And if the investment turned to be a social corruption, then we will urge our legislators to enact laws that regulate sexual lure and other illegal acts.

It seems, in my view, nobody cares either the State Government or National Government about the issue but our social values are increasingly at peril in the hands of foreigners managing those hotels.  This writer would like to appeal to all South Sudanese and to those who are still practising such vice in particular and go unpunished, specifically those in high positions of work must desist from such acts, otherwise laws and regulations that are governing social corruption will soon be applied.

THE WAY FORWARD

·       Since oil is the major source and backbone of our economy in the country, it would have alleviated poverty in South Sudan, had its money properly been used to develop agriculture. Perhaps nobody thought about how to manage oil money for the last six years as an Economist Peter Biar Ajak stresses that: “With six years and a constant supply of $ 2 billion per year, and you could not manage to develop a concrete agricultural scheme that could become the foundation of your economy! It simply tells you that we were not thinking”. Henceforth, the parties to “ARCISS” must develop agriculture through oil money.

As corruption lowers legitimacy and efficacy, you can reduce it in various government institutions by: - correcting official system, preventing employment corruption; increment of salaries of government employees or civil servants; application of rule of law, strict accountability and transparency; general supervision and monitoring of governmental organizations; raising public awareness; deregulations and formation of independent and strong institution to combat corruption.

·       As corruption undermines democracy and rule of law, the “GRSS” needs - to empower Anti-corruption Commission so as to conduct investigations and to prosecute corrupters; accede to or ratify the treaty of United Nations against Corruption, including Bribery & Anti-Money-Laundering and other international instruments that fight graft.

·       As corruption undermines the ethics and integrity of public offices, Justice Minister must be advice to revamp his ministry and to remove, investigate and prosecute those senior officials who have committed the vice forthwith.

·       As corruption jeopardizes justice, impartiality and promotes extra-judicial sentences, “JOSS” needs - to recruit more competent judicial assistants, promote judges; pay for them “huge” salaries, but on time in order to speed up the adjudication of cases; and to avoid them from being tempted.

·       As corruption discourages foreign aids and investment to the nation, “TGoNU” with help of “JMEC” must dismiss, arrest, and confiscate the property of any government official who has embezzled or misappropriated public funds so that to win back the confidence of our citizens. Because the citizens have lost trust from their governments.

·       As corruption undermines government’s ability to provide basic services to the people, JMEC must urge the TGoNU to initiate the reform by scrutinizing and reviewing all files of government employees because most of the employed people were inept, incompetent and lack credentials to deliver basic services in their respective institutions. 

CONCLUSION

In a country where balance of payment deficits and foreign debts are growing due to corruption, the above scenario is worrying. Such trend is reminiscent, not only in South Sudan but throughout Africa. As John Forje (1982) articulates that, “…the philosophical orientation of most political parties and trade unions in Africa lacks the mechanism for mobilizing human resources, rather they have become channels of exploitation, getting rich at the shortest possible time and by employing all means available.”

Indeed the above quote reflects this current situation where our traders or private sector depends on the government and where the government offices or organizations have been turned as channels of getting rich.

After having elaborated the above-mentioned four types of corruption that exists in South Sudan, it should be noted that corruption may not end, but attempts must be made towards managing the vice. I hope through the formation of “TGoNU” 2016 and with help of “JMEC”, structural arrangements must promptly be institutionalized to punish and make it difficult for the corrupters to practice corruption.  

The Writer is an Advocate & Legal Consultant at Juba in South Sudan. Email him at mabor.lawyer@gmail.com                                                                        

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