By Philip Thon Aleu
June 16, 2011 (JUBA) – South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) has invited ministers of finance and legal affairs to answer questions on delayed investigation into the region’s massive grain scandal.
- The Legislative Assembly of Southern Sudan
The SSLA is investigating what happened to millions of U.S. dollars released to build grain stores in each of South Sudan’s ten states. The total cost of the money missing from grain orders that were payed for but not received and stores that were funded but not built is estimated to be over 2 billion U.S. dollars – similar to the region’s annual budget.
Finance ministry contractors were asked in 2009 to create 132 emergency grain stores costing over 90 million Sudanese Pounds ($34 million). Only 46 were built, the SSLA select committee has found.
Speaking to the Sudan Tribune in Juba on Tuesday, the chairperson of the SSLA committee investigating grains store costs, Deng Dau Deng, described the anomalies in the number of storage units financed using South Sudan funds and those really constructed.
“We visited Upper Nile State and we have seen what have not been built and what was built,” Deng said.
“The contract was given to 17 contractors but we have discovered that there were some sub-contractions that were given to other companies. In our verification, we have only got 27 concrete stores and 19 rough-holes."
He said that this was less than what had been agreed and paid for.
The latest intervention by South Sudan’s parliament was triggered by claims in the 2011 budget that demanded payment to contractors who had been asked to build some of the missing grain stores.
Ministers of finance and legal affairs have been summoned to SSLA house to help the lawmakers in investigating what is either huge corruption or mismanagement on a massive scale.
Former ministers of finance and legal affairs Kuol Athian and Michael Makuei Lueth, respectively who were in charge in the offices during the time when contracts were issued and scandal uncovered have also been asked to appear at August House. No date has been set for their appearance.
The committee has found that the grain stores which were built were not strategically located. It also found that in 7 of the 10 states, no new storage facilities were needed.
The House resolved to summon the minister of legal affairs to explain why the persecution of allegedly corrupt individuals has been delayed.
The minister of finance has also been invited to explain to the assembly the differences between the number of stores paid for by the government, and the number actually built.
But the assembly says all it can do is pressure the executive to take action, the SSLA cannot prosecute the culprits itself.
“The question of prosecution is left with the executive. Yes, there is a question of apathy you know. Investigation is done, nothing is happening and all these kinds of things,” MP Deng said.
The lawmaker, representing Twic East (SPLM, Jonglei State) conceded that the assembly never gave powers of prosecution to South Sudan Anti-corruption Commission meaning it only has "investigative powers.”
He did not say why the parliament, which has the power to give the anti-corruption commission the power to prosecute, has not done so.
South Sudan is due to declare independence from North Sudan on July 9 having voted in January to secede in a referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.
The weakness of South Sudan’s anti-graft body is symptomatic of institutional challenges that are expected to come with the region’s independence.