Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 14 August 2013

On the impartiality, objectivity and transparency of vetting committee

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By Lam Akol

August 13, 2013 - The work of the current Select Committee to vet the recently appointed Ministers and Deputy Ministers of the Government of South Sudan has raised a lot of interest and spirited debate. However, one feels the debate is not focussed enough. One reason for the confusion is that the work of the committee is shrouded with lack of transparency as to its mission. This is why some contributors seem to be mistaking the woods for the forest.

To begin with, as the official opposition and as a citizen, one feels proud that the National Legislative Assembly which has imprinted in the minds of the South Sudanese the image of a rubber stamp has at long last taken on the gauntlet and is ready to exercise its function as a watch dog on the work of the Executive. Among these powers is the one to vet and approve appointments as required by the constitution. This is commendable, and I do not think that anybody in his right mind will quarrel with that.

However, the atmosphere surrounding this “new awakening” and the impression that the Committee was selective in its vetting have contributed to the doubts being raised about its impartiality. Hence, several points need to be straightened out so that the Select Committee could really be taken for what it should be: an impartial, objective and transparent body.

The first point to note is that the terms of reference of the Committee are not clearly spelt out. This should have been the first thing to be worked out before commencement of its work, and these TORs should be available to those to be vetted if not to the entire public. Judging by the article written by a member of the committee, Mr Joseph Ngere Paciko, they appear to be confusing the constitutional basis of the committee (constitutional and Conduct of Business provisions) for the terms of reference. The terms of reference must spell out what are the requirements the Committee is looking for in each and every candidate, not arbitrarily but on the basis of constitutional and legal provisions. Is it looking for academic qualifications, expertise, integrity, experience, or what? This aspect seems to be lacking. A case in point is requiring a Deputy Minister to produce her academic qualifications when nothing of the sort is required by the constitution. What is the basis of the committee’s insistence on that?

Second, are all the appointees to appear before the Select Committee and be subjected to the same “grilling”? If not, what are the criteria for exempting some? The statement given by the member of the Select Committee mentioned above in this regard is quite worrying. Quote:

“The Select Committee vetted and approved the rest of the appointees because nobody raised concern or brought any allegation against them, otherwise, some of them would face what befell the two.” Unquote.

This is an admission that the “rest of the appointees” were approved without question “because nobody raised concern or brought any allegation against them”. This is astonishing. Even if we were to accept this argument, were the public invited to raise concern or bring allegations against the appointees? If so, when and how?

What appears to be distantly related to the terms of reference, as came in the statement of the same member of the Select Committee, is a misunderstanding of what the role of the Minister is supposed to be. Says he:

“…each appointee [to]convince the committee members about their credentials and their anticipated policies which they hope to implement once they take up their new positions.” Unquote.

Where on earth is a Minister expected to formulate his/her own policies to implement as he/she likes. Least of all to expect that role from a nominated Minister who has not yet assumed office. Policies are formulated by the Executive, i.e., the Presidency and the Council of Ministers and then approved by the Parliament. Then and only then will each ministry have specific policies and programmes to implement as part of the general policy of the Government. Such confusion did not help the Select Committee and raises doubts on its competence.

Third, what is the mechanism of adopting decisions in the committee? This should be part of the TORs but needs to be highlighted on its own. Should the decisions be taken by unanimity, consensus or simple majority? In other words are all the members of the committee agreed on the vetting still going on? If not, how many are for that?

Fourth, are members of the Committee competent to carry out the required task. What are the qualifications of, say, the Chairperson of the Committee? Can she really follow the sophisticated reasoning being used in the debate around the vetting? I leave these questions to the Speaker and the MPs to answer. The role of the Chairperson is crucial as he/she directs and controls the debate.

Fifth, why didn’t the Select Committee include members of the official Opposition? For a committee of eleven members, how come there is not a single member of the Opposition? This says volumes about whether the Assembly is really at a “turning point” or we are just being treated to an aberration and it will soon be business as usual. A body that brings people under scrutiny must be an open book.

Dr. Lam Akol is the leader of the opposition SPLM Democratic Change



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  • 14 August 2013 09:44, by Black Power

    Telar was in your camp when both of you were removed from your portfolios in the then govt of National Unity. Thus, this agony from your end.

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    • 14 August 2013 10:56, by Peter Mading

      This is why some literate people say Dr. Lam Akol is far much better than Dr. Riek. The names of the two politicians means a lot: Lam means ’wish’ and Riek Mean ’Destroy’. You see his Title of the Article it is objective. Am not in NLA and if I was one of them those highlighted by Lam are the strategies to be followed when vetting Cabinets and why now???

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      • 14 August 2013 12:34, by Manyok

        If Dr. Lam is not appointed for Vice President, as rumors show, then his article is motivated by pure objectivity. But if he is nominated for the above position, then his argument here is to prepare his own ground. Let us wait and see.

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    • 14 August 2013 18:24, by jijury

      I absolutely agreed with Dr. Lam, if we really meant to practice democracy in South Sudan, all 11 vetting committees should have been screen and check not only their academic condentials, but also their criminal backgrounds. Some them are dancing that they’ve done a great job which is true, but what are their past and current records?

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      • 15 August 2013 04:54, by Nyesi Ta

        Jijury, that’s why I think the work of cleaning up should not stop with Telar. The next place to clean up is the vetting committee, the parliament, the Kiir’s cabinet, and the civil service personnel. They should be dancing now, but what they started is coming to bite them.

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      • 15 August 2013 06:34, by Mi diit

        Peter Mading,
        Don’t rush to falsely try to interpret the languages you don’t understand. I don’t know in Shilluk or Dinka, but in Nuer the name "Lam" means cursed while the name "Riek" means shrine. Not Riak in Dinka which means destruction. This is Riek, NOT Riak. Get it!
        As for Lam Akol, Kiir wants to appoint him his VP per recommendation by Telar Ring Deng. This tells about his reaction.

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  • 14 August 2013 12:37, by sanduksanduk

    Lam, the NLA need to educate members on how to conduct debates in the house. Having one or more opposition members on that committee would not have made any difference. Ignorance is not confine by party affiliation.
    Our higher institutions of learning are wasting away while the brightest among us are over crowding the political space where ignorance is common denominator. Lam, organise seminars.

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  • 14 August 2013 12:48, by Diu Tut Deng

    Ajawin? you are digging an empty well,the pro-criteria were clear to all MPS and the ministers themselves,else if you need only SPLM DC participation in the vetting committee and that should be your single right otherwise you are opposing on baseless, Onyeti was among the voted MPS and has expressed his feeling in a happy way. What the answer again do you inquiry from MPS and the vetting committe

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  • 14 August 2013 12:57, by malieng

    practical is batter then theoretical, why Dr Lam remain intelligent in the school? He is suppose to practices his intelligence in the country not abroad. Your excellence you are needed to put your intelligence on use this time not sweet word but sweet doing.

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  • 14 August 2013 13:01, by Diu Tut Deng

    Lam, you need also to be in the country so long you are alliance with SPLM is being shown these Days. what is fearing you and Kiir will not Kill you and may be will make you a Vice, and I like that because as I know you, this country will go forward because you can kick him out in less then a month, you are a man of action not like Riek machar who use wait..wait..wait till his neck is blow.

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  • 14 August 2013 13:04, by Grader

    Commendable

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  • 14 August 2013 19:11, by Dauson Gieth

    Educative, balanced and very objective opinion Dr. Lam

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  • 14 August 2013 21:13, by Eastern

    Dr. Lam Akol is an icon which most South Sudanese have failed to see. Party affiliation aside, this short article by the doctor has cast some light on the mambo-jumbo vetting committee. Is the chairperson of the committee really competent? Is she not going to be bulldozed into submission during debates. Is she able to contain party intrigues? These are the kind of questions lingering in my mind.

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  • 18 August 2013 19:24, by Mapuor

    Bravo Dr Lam
    Even though Telar has accepted the committee’s decision,he is far better than those harlots and thugs both educationally and professionally.SPLM will no longer accommodate johnny come late-lies.Stalwarts are proven to be the best and will always lead the party.Congratulations to our president for removing thieves.

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