Legislators threaten massive crackdown on corrupt officials

Legislators threaten massive crackdown on corrupt officials
South Sudan Parliament building in the capital Juba [Photo credit: CGTN]

The members of the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislature (RTNLA) have cautioned government officials against corrupt practices, lest they face the law.

The members of Parliament made the statements during the second reading of the draft national budget, which was presented by the committee on finance and planning.

Samuel Buhori Lotti commended the finance committee for its extensive analysis of the national budget for 2021–2021, stating that the analysis revealed a number of concerns that the legislature must address in order to meet the challenges that may come in the next budget.

“I have realised even from our committee that this question of some institutions actually overspending their budgets and that the ministry of finance was not clear as to how other ministries are given more preferences than others. This has to correspond as well because this house has not been receiving reports from the auditor general,” Lotti said.

“It is only with the report of the auditor general that we can hold the Minister of Finance accountable for some appropriation and misappropriation of the budget as it has been allocated,” he explained.

Questions asked

The country’s fiscal year budget for 2021/2021 is a hindsight budget. Lotti noted that one of the ministries on the committee of which he is a member underspent its budget by 8 per cent despite being the busiest in the country, adding: “You wonder where they are getting their money from.”

He claimed, for example, that the Ministry of National Security only used 8 per cent of its funding for 2021–2022. Where do they acquire their money? The Interior Ministry is overworked by 190 per cent. What’s going on here? When we read the audit report, these are some of the things the ministry of finance needs to make clear,” Buhori said.

The commissioner of the National Revenue Authority reported to the assembly that non-oil revenue collection increased from July to February last year, a statement rejected by the ministry of finance and planning.

According to Lotti, the Ministry of Finance is attempting to avoid the truth of the NRA’s findings and has asked MPs to back the NRA in “reigning in the 20 institutions that are not cooperating” so they can deal with them head-on.

“The non-oil revenue has been on a higher trend and that calls for the Ministry of Finance to have an explanation as to why they are denying this.”

Also, he said the ministry of finance should be questioned about the ministry of petroleum’s presentation, noting that “so much oil is going to unexplained commitments.”

“It is important that as TNLA, we need to be getting regular reports from the ministry of petroleum as to how much has been pumped and how much is being paid for loans and how much is actually deposited to the ministry of finance so that we can correspond to know how it is being spent.”

South Sudan’s inability to satisfy its foreign missions and regional membership commitments, according to a female lawmaker who addressed the committee on finance and planning’s recommendations is “embarrassing.”

She warned that the majority of ministers do not respect the laws that Parliament enacts to govern the country, and she asked parliamentarians to pay attention to some of the executive’s actions that are bringing the country into disrepute.

The legislator also inquired about the MPs’ reassessment funds, pointing out that their reassessment is being purchased.

 “If the Minister of Finance is not cooperating with us, you know you will be the first person to see and practise the impeachment, because not all the time we blame and keep anger on our speaker, and the whole issue belongs to the Minister of Finance.

“The Minister of Finance is favouring some ministries and some important ministries. He does not pay attention to them. What is that to work on?’’ she questioned.

She urged the Ministry of Finance to be transparent in all that they are doing so that the public, the legislature, and the executive would understand how the government is spending the resources of the country.

She asked the Ministry of Finance to be honest in everything it does so that the public, legislature, and cabinet can understand how the government spends the country’s resources.

Yet to act

Despite an increase in the payment of two and three per cent of oil money to oil-producing towns, Mary Ayen Majok, the first deputy speaker of the Council of States, stated that some governors are still sitting on the money authorised and placed in the Bank of South Sudan’s account.

Some governors continue to violate the rights of communities. “I want this August house to take this seriously because they aren’t paying,” Mary stressed.

The petroleum revenue management act divides the three per cent into five per cent for the oil-producing community and 45 per cent for neighbouring communities.

But Mary said: “I know that finance is paying half of the 55 per cent,” Mary explained. ‘‘We don’t know where the other half is, and we don’t know where the remaining 45 per cent is.”

Race Monchang addressed the issue of financial management raised by the finance and planning, legislation, and legal affairs committees, stating that the committee should reveal the people found guilty of corruption in the budget analysis report.