June 30, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan has started investigating its two ministers recently suspended for alleged involvement in what is regarded as the biggest financial scandal in the country’s post-independence era.
- South Sudan president Salva Kiir (Reuters)
The finance minister, Kosti Manibe and his cabinet affairs counterpart, Deng Alor are accused of approving the transfer of $8 million of public funds without the knowledge of relevant state institutions.
The two were suspended in a decree issued by South Sudan president, Salva Kiir who also appointed a five-member committee to investigate the duo.
No South Sudanese official has been prosecuted for corruption, despite millions of dollars going unaccounted for since the south-ruling party Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) gained control of south as part of a 2005 peace deal.
However, since the country’s independence in 2011, president Kiir has rhetorically pledged tough measures against corruption, but his recent action was the first ever move against senior officials accused of financial malpractice.
An investigation committee headed by the chairperson of the the country’s anti-graft commission chair, John Gatwic Lul was formed to find the facts and establish the legality of the contract for which the money was requested and approved by the two officials.
The five-member committee on Friday took oath before the president pledging allegiance, independence, secrecy and commitment to establish facts of the case.
Gatwic, who spoke to reporters soon after the swearing-in ceremony, said his committee was ready to start the process.
It is alleged that the funds were released from South Sudan’s national treasury into a private account.
Last year, president Kiir wrote to 75 both former and current senior government officials asking them to return $4 billion in missing public finds.This investigation, according to analysts, is regarded by the general public as the SPLM’s response to corruption allegations, which have tarnished the image of the new nation.
The two senior ministers are the first high-level officials to be investigated for corruption, since the country gained independence from Sudan two years ago.
Ngai’s predecessors at the ministry of finance and economic planning were removed from the post following reports that they were implicated in similar allegations, but none of them was ever probed by the country’s anti-corruption body.
Several top-ranking officials at the ministry of finance, including acting general for accounts are also said to be under investigation.
Meanwhile, Kiir has ordered security agents to ensure that the officials cooperate with the anti-corruption commission and do not travel outside the country without the knowledge of the committee.
A presidential aide quoted the Kiir as saying that considering the amounts of funds and assets involved, it was clear that most of the alleged corruption cases were deliberately being carried out by individual officials.
“I want a full report on these allegations. We cannot condone such acts of abuse of public funds,” Kiir reportedly told the investigation committee, while reiterating his stance on zero tolerance to corruption.
Kiir, the aide told Sudan Tribune, has also demanded a thorough forensic investigation of the government departments implicated in order to get to the root of the allegations.
"The president has asked the investigating agencies to carry out their work in accordance with the law, noting that the alleged perpetrators of corruption should be accorded due process and their rights to a free and fair trial should be respected at all times," said the aide, who preferred anonymity.