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South Sudan’s anti corruption commission claims recovered over $60 million

May 26, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s anti corruption commission on Friday claimed it recovered more than $60 million, allegedly taken by top level government officials, resulting into suspension and subsequent dismissal of some members, a senior member of the country’s anti-graft commission has said.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir holds freshly-minted notes of the new South Sudan pound, in Juba on July 18, 2011. Getty

John Gawech Lul, chair of the South Sduan Anti Corruption Commission at a public discussion hosted by Radio Bakhita on Friday said his commission had not only managed to recover more money but had equally managed to close all doors through which money was transferred to other foreign countries.

“If anybody thinks he/she can take our money and run away with it they need to be told that this would not be possible, because we have closed all these doors. This was why we went out to countries where money is stashed. We have gone to England. We have also gone to Switzerland and we have agreed with governments there to work together with us”, Lul told audience.

His deputy Johnny Saverio Ayiik, who participated at the radio talk show said they managed to turn over every stone to fight corruption and stop culprits.

"We have managed to investigate and transfer five cases to the ministry of justice for trial, is it not an achievement? We recovered over 60 million dollars which was wrongly taken by some people, is it not an achievement? We have offices in the ten states of the republic of South Sudan and of course declaration of assets, is it not an achievement”, he asked.

The senior government official made the remarks in response to questions inquisitive of why the commission has not prosecuted a single official for corruption, since it was established in 2006.

In November 2011, President Salva Kiir appointed Supreme Court Judge John Gatwech Lul to replace the former head of the anti-corruption body, Pauline Riak. The international community has put increasing pressure on Juba to address the issue of corruption, threatening that failure to do so could affect further international assistance.

Lul that said he and his deputy in January and early February travelled to various countries to seek their support in the fight against corruption by helping them to "track down money taken out illegally" to individual foreign bank accounts.

The senior government official further added that transparency is part of their mandate and this explains why they are able to know assets held by individual members of the government including President Kiir.

"Transparency is part of our mandate. This is why we are now able to know how many cows the president has. How many children? How much money he has but we cannot just go and announce it to the public because of privacy. The constitution is very clear about this. It talks about confidential information. This includes assets held by individual”, he said.

Ayiik, decried the prevalence of “loopholes”, which he attributed to lack of enacted laws to help the commission carryout its duties effectively but said a lot has been achieved despite existing challenges.

"With all these challenges the Anti-Corruption [Commssion] has five cases transferred to the ministry of justice for trial. Among these five cases there is a very serious case involving [a] senior government official”, Ayiik said when asked what action the commission had taken.

He further said that the person, which he refused to name, was suspended and subsequently dismissed from the post and the case is with ministry of justice.

"There is no law allowing the commission to prosecute criminals although the constitution gives some powers but which cannot be put into effect because the law has not been enacted," the deputy chairman said.

He further criticised the narrow definition included in the criminal law which speaks only about " prosecuting people who committed crimes in public office."

"This is a very limited definition," he said.

(ST)