GOSS Workshop: Draft Act of the Southern Sudan Audit Chamber

9th November 2006, This morning at Juba Raha, HE Dr. Luka Biong Deng, Minister for Presidential Affairs in the Government of Southern Sudan, opened a two-day workshop, which will review the draft Act of the Southern Sudan Audit Chamber.

This workshop forms part of a process, which HE Dr. Biong described as “a constitutional revolution” in the Southern Sudan. The caliber of attendees at the workshop reflected this significance, and included: The Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Chief Justice Ambrose Riny Thiik, Anti-Corruption Commissioner Dr. Pauline Riak, Human Rights Commissioner Joy Kwaje, Professor Akolda Man Tiel of University of Khartoum, Peace Commissioner James Coke, Head of the Joint Donor Team Liz Gaere, and Moderator Deng Ajak, Director General of the Kush Institute.

Dr, Biong delivered a speech on behalf of HE Salva Kiir Mayardit, who regrettably was unable to attend the workshop as he attended an urgent meeting of the Southern Sudan Defence Council.

The speech was strongly supportive of the Southern Sudan Audit Chamber’s formation, describing it as one of the key pillars of good governance in the Southern Sudan, along with the Anti-Corruption Commission, The Southern Sudan Judiciary, the Human Rights Commission, the Legislative Assembly and the will of the people. He congratulated the Auditor General, Barnabas Majok Barnabas, and his staff, on their appointments and noted that their appointments had come after serious consideration and that they had the full confidence of the Government.

“We need to recognise that we have inherited a system from the old Sudan which was devoid of the values of transparent public financial management systems but instead promoted corruption and abuses of public resources as part of their way of waging war against our people and their values. The establishment of the Southern Sudan Audit Chamber came as a result of the need to restore and promote internationally-recognised practices in the public financial management.”

“I personally appeal to and urge all levels of government in Southern Sudan to work closely with all these institutions to uproot the old mentality, system and practices that allowed the looting of the badly needed public resources. Our people have suffered a great deal and they deserve to be served and enjoy the fruits of peace”

“I am aware that some states do not have budgets and proper accounts records. This causes serious concern about the management and control of our public resources. Even at the level of GOSS, systems are not fully established, and if available are not followed or respected.”

The speech noted that the Council of Ministers had passed the ‘Southern Sudan Procurement Regulations and Guidelines’ to control and ensure the transparent and competitive procurement of public resources and that the President had learned with ‘great concern’ that these regulations were not fully followed or implemented, and believed that ‘we need to know more’.

The speech went on to express deep concern at the use of un-referenced public financial documents to record public transactions, and especially at the fact that payment documents are at times “ignorantly or deliberately discarded after payments, and this leaves no audit trail of the use of public funds”. The speech insisted that “such practice if it exists must stop immediately”, and the Ministry of Finance has been urged to supply all levels of Government with appropriate accounting and financial books for the effective recording of our revenues and expenditures.

In the speech, it was noted that the President had learned that some revenue points did not give proper receipts and at times, issued multiple receipts, and so can avoid remitting such public funds to the Ministry of Finance. The Courts, in addition were not always forthcoming. These resources are then lost to the country. It was once again made clear that “this practice must stop”

The President added that he had noted concerns raised, about the nature of some public contracts into which the Government had entered and stated that the Ministers concerned must share copies of such contracts with the Chamber, making them available for public scrutiny. “We are entrusted by our people to be the custodians of their public resources and we need to demonstrate that we are up to their expectations. General elections are near and our people will judge us in accordance to our performance”.

Auditor General Barnabas Majok Barnabas noted in his welcoming speech that the Sudan Audit chamber had originally been established in 1923. Its independence was crucial to provide checks and balances. The Chamber would try to live up to the expectations of the people, and was helped by the fact that its remit was clearly laid out in the CPA.

However, there were some issues of concern. Financing for the Chamber was not ideal; problems getting confirmation of the 6-month budget to 31st December, meant work to date had been limited. Additionally, the setting of a $1,115,000 US ceiling on the 2007 budget, without consultation, will affect the Chamber’s ability to achieve its aims in the coming year. Human Resource is also a major problem meaning that for the next 3-4 yrs the Chamber will need to contract consultants to assist with their work. In the future, the Auditor stated, young Sudanese graduates will need training in the skills required. This will require resources, and the President was urged to appeal to friendly donors for help. In the long term, Southern Sudan needed accountancy colleges. Failure to set them up will cost the country dear in terms of lack of financial control and wasted resources.

The Auditor further pointed out that the Chamber lacked office accommodation- though he acknowledged with gratitude that the government of Central Equatoria had now allocated land. The funds to build were still outstanding. The lack of residential accommodation is a problem affecting the performance of the Chamber’s senior staff.

In a brief address, Chief Justice Ambrose Riny Thiik said that the workshop was important to him, as he saw the need for a partnership between the Judiciary and such bodies as the Audit Chamber, to encourage the rule of law and achieve an ordered civilized society and a way forward for the people of Southern Sudan, ensuring transparency and accountability.
In his opening remarks, Moderator of the workshop Deng Ajak, Director General of the Kush Institute, noted that the Sudanese people continue to succeed, through the use of intellect, despite the challenges.

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