By Steven Wöndu
August 21, 2012 — Professor Taban Loliyong’s piece in The Citizen of August 9th is welcome. The road connectinga Kajokeji and Juba in the CPA era was largely the result of public outcry. I recall that Kuku members of the then Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly, Mary Kiden and James Duku shouted their heart out on this project during the interim period. In Khartoum, Kuku IDPs presented dramatic plays on the troubles they faced while travellinga through Nimule or Kaya to Uganda then back to Kajokeji. I remember writing a piece called The woes of Kajokeji lamenting the same crisis.
Ordinarily, public servants do not talk about the things they do in the government. Unknown to the public, some of us went to strange places to solicit funds for that road. One example is this. When President Omer Beshir visited Japan in 2008, I asked him to fund the Kajokeji-Juba road so that he would not have to ask President Museveni’s permission to visit Kajokeji. That morning, Museveni had refused to shake Beshir’s hand at Yokahama because Beshir greeted in Arabic. Responding to my request, Beshir told me to write to him through the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (my boss) Dr Mutrif Sidiq. Our deal was that the NCP would send money through the head of their southern office Mrs Agnes Poni Lukudu. As an ambassador, I had to pretend to be politically impartial. But I hinted to him that fixing the Kajokeji road would enhance the NCPs electoral fortunes in Central Equatoria. I remember alerting Manase Lomole to take it from there. I do not know what happened at the end. If nothing happened I am not surprised. Mutrif must have advised Beshir not to swallow my bait. Anyhow, many other people, including those of Michael Duku in the Central Equatoria Assembly played their part. Consequently we got the Limbe road and the upper Kaya bridge. Meanwhile work was progressing on the “Taban Loliyong” road, or so we thought. Last year we finally had the lower Kaya bridge. But we could all see that some thing was not quite right with the engineering with respect to the other bridges.
Like Prof Taban and others, I travel to Kajokeji very often for obvious reasons. I could see road equipment lying on the road side idle. It caught my eye that the construction company was called Payii. On further enquiry, I found that the company had some association with the Nile Commercial Bank and or its directors. I took up the matter with the SPLM Secretary for Administration and Finance, Comrade Gabriel Alak. He supplied me with more information. In the last SPLM mini-convention in Nyokuron, he announced that the SPLM, instead of using its influence to make Payii deliver the road, decided to sever its association with Payii “in order to preserve its good relationship with the people of Kajokeji”.
I went to see the authorities in the Ministry of Roads and Bridges on the matter. As good luck would have it, I found the Minister, his Deputy and Undersecretary together. Minister Gier Chuang courageously admitted that the Ministry’s supervisory role was wanting and that the Ministry had been caught napping on the job. It was a frank adult discussion. The three leaders promised to redress the failing.
I am the auditor of the Multi Donor Trust Fund, popularly known as the MDTF. In the course of my work I discovered that the MDTF was the source of the finance for the road we are talking about. I alerted the coordinating committee of the situation on the ground. This was one of several MDTF projects that I found were not progressing as scheduled yet the funds were dwindling and time was running out. The MDTF was supposed to close on June 30th 2012 and so I was alarmed, so was the Minister of Finance. We both appealed for the extension of the life of the MDTF.
I would like to believe that all the other Kuku and some none Kuku officials in the government have in their own ways advocated for this road and other developmental initiatives in the county. They may not be singing themselves praises but that does not mean they are not trying their best within their respective limitations.
The government of Southern Sudan had difficulties in public procurement and tendering processes. After awarding a contract to a company, we often forgot about supervision, as Minister Gier Chuang says. The government was in a dilemma; when contracts were awarded to foreign companies, our business community complained, and sometimes justifiably so. When it is awarded to a local company like Payii, we run into the kind of crisis we are currently experiencing on the Kajokeji road.
Where do we go from here? Back to Minister Gier Chuang and Deputy Minister Simon Majok. We had a long session on the matter last week. The Deputy Minister has launched an investigation including a test drive. The matter moves forward from there. We are not sleeping and we are not thumbing our chests either.
Prof. Taban observes that the Limbe road has been conquered by grass and rain. Why are Lainya and Kajokeji Counties not maintaining their road? There is a lot of agricultural activity at Kala, Wuji and Kupera. There are health and educational institutions there we cannot supervise this time of the year. Needless to say, peoples are stranded there without access to Kajokeji, Yei, Juba, and the rest of the country. We can say the same thing about the Kajokeji road. Why are Juba and Kajokeji Counties not assuming responsibility for the upkeep of the road? A few weeks ago, I invited the Central Equatoria Minister of Finance to my office to assist me with an answer to the general problem we are having about rural accessibility in the State. As we sit here, we have no access to Yondoru, Lasu, Mongo, and Tore. The young man walked me through some efforts to acquire equipment but so far to no avail. Is the government of Central Equatoria also sleeping on the job or is there a greater obstacle in the sky? Seriously, how much are we doing practically in agriculture, water, health, education etc? Supposingi that UNMISS, WFP, FAO, UNDP, UNICEF, USAID, JICA, GAZ, EU, JDT, MDTF, MSF, were not here! Just imagine the state of affairs in your county without the donors? Would we have survived? Yes and no. Would we still exist as an organized society? To what extent are we organized in the place? Would we have woken up and behaved like responsible leaders? These and many more questions are not idle talk; they are rich food for thought.
The author is the South Sudan Auditor General