October 15, 2012 (KAMPALA) – Leaders of the South Sudanese Students’ Union (SSSU) in Uganda, including the president, have stepped down after the union’s parliamentary committee of inquiry found them responsible for the loss of more than $100,000.
James Mayar, the President of SSSU, accepted the student representatives calls for him to step down, in order to clear his name in the court of law.
After his arrest two weeks ago the union’s Secretary of Finance Bill Dhieu was arrested two weeks ago accused of stealing funds, he accused Mayar and four other leaders of persuading him to siphon off union money.
Both men were asked vacant their posts during a heated debate on Sunday pending further inquiries by Uganda police.
The five students’ leaders recorded statements on Monday at the Central Police station in Kampala.
The union’s interim leader Deborah Apat, who is the current speaker of students’ parliament, says she will attempt to return all the missing funds.
The scam surfaced two weeks ago when Bill Dhieu was by other student leaders of withdrawing over $50,000. The financial secretary admitted responsibility for the missing funds but said he was helped by those senior to him in the union, including President Mayar and Secretary General David Lam.
The Council of the union consisting of student representatives met on 5 October and formed a committee of inquiry to speak to the accused leaders.
The committee, headed by Matiok Santos from Kampala University, found that the entire leadership of the union had been involved in the theft. Santos made ten recommendations including resignation of President James Mayar, Vice President Jiel Jiel, Secretary General David Lam, Financial Secretary Bill Dhieu and Deputy Secretary of Parliamentary Affairs Peter Kuot to pave the way for an impartial investigation by the Uganda police.
Another students’ leader, Nyibango Bor, a special advisor to the Union’s president, was accused in absentia.
After the debate and subsequent vote the accused student leaders agreed to quit their posts.
“The secretary of finance made serious accusations against me and I have to clear my name in the court of law,” James Mayar, the SSSU President told Sudan Tribune after the meeting.
According to a report presented to student representatives by the committee of inquiry an amount of $114,106 and 310,000 South Sudanese pounds (SSP) are unaccounted. The total amount missing is roughly $220,000.
In their defense speeches, the embattled leaders said most of that money does not belong to the Union despite being wired into its bank account.
Some of the funds in question were transferred from South Sudan to Uganda using the Union account and later withdrawn and given to the intended recipients, they said.
But the committee of inquiry pointed out that using the SSSU’s account in this fashion was forbidden in the Union’s constitution.
BEGGING FOR STUDENT FUNDING
The SSSU gets funds from officials in South Sudan by requesting funds for their projects and activities.
Since it was formed in 2008, cases of financial misappropriation in the Union have been common when annual elections, often conducted in November, near but until now no bold steps have been taken.
Governors of South Sudan have helped the union tremendously:
- Lakes State Governor - 30,000 SSP
- Northern Bahr El Ghazal Governor - 10,000 SSP
- Upper Nile Governor - 40,000 SSP
- Eastern Equatoria State Governor - 30,000 SSP
The office of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir gave the student union $50,000 in June 2012. Funds donated from Jonglei and Central Equatoria States apparently were never received.
While secretary of finance, Bill Dhieu, admits owing the Union $13,000, he insisted that the other leaders had allowed him to use the money to carry out business. He asked the other leaders to be honest about their involvement. Dhieu claimed that cheques were signed ahead of time to allow him to easily withdrawal the money.
There is little hope amongst students that the money will ever be recovered because no financial documents are available. They are also concerned that there are no records of some donations to to the union as they were not paid directly into the SSSU bank account.
The real amount missing may never established, students say.