By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
August 20, 2013 (BENTIU) - In the wake of South Sudan’s dramatic recent reshuffle and downsizing of the central government, Unity state has sought to explain the high number of advisors and ministers in the Bentiu government.
An official told Sudan Tribune that the high number of top officials is due to pressure from citizens to ensure that all counties and ethnic groups are represented.
South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir dissolved his whole cabinet and sacked his vice president, Riek Machar, in late July before restructuring the government and merging some ministries. Following the move he asked that the young nation’s 10 states follow his lead in order to streamline the government and allow more money to be spent on development projects and service delivery rather than salaries.
Since independence in July 2011, South Sudan has been unable to resolve many post-secession disputes with its northern neighbour. In January 2012 South Sudan was forced to introduce austerity measures following the country’s shutdown of oil production over a dispute over how much Juba should pay Khartoum in oil transit fees.
Production finally resumed in April this year but Khartoum is threatening to block the South’s oil exports by 6 September, if security issues are not resolved. Both sides accuse the other of backing rebel groups either side of the tense disputed international border.
Cutting down on senior positions is one way the South hopes to adjust to the potential loss in revenue, should Khartoum block oil exports. When production was first halted over a year and a half ago the South Sudanese government lost 98% of its income.
Two weeks after Unity state caretaker governor Joseph Nguen Monytuel formed his first cabinet he said that he would reduce the size of government to meet the challenges of austerity but he has still appointed eight advisors, a reduction of just one from the previous administration.
The constant increases in the size of the Bentiu government since former rebels - the SPLM - came to power in 2005, has been due to the demands of Unity state’s nine counties and various communities to be represented, according to Dhoal Koryom Lingling, the state’s secretary general.
He pointed out that there were nine advisors in the former government, adding that the recent appointments of advisors by the caretaker governor were made to answer the people’s demands.
"To me I don’t think the size of government is increasing, if you took example of those who are appointed as technical advisors, most of them are administrators so they are appointed by the governor in order to guide the operation of the ministries. They will give technical advice to the minister concerned", added Lingling.
It was hard to balance the formation of new government, Lingling said, adding that it forced the caretaker governors to increase the total number of advisors to address the calls from citizens.
"As the governor he has his own ways of bringing together the people of this state, it is not easy to form a government where you left out so many people", he said.
"This is why he appointed eight advisors who are constitutional post holders”, added the secretary general.
The oil-rich border state has been hit hard by the nationwide austerities measures but the state official says local revenue is being collected to pay for the advisors and ministers.
Unity state’s minister of information and communication, Nyaliep John Dak, told Sudan Tribune that the state has not received any oil money since production resumed earlier this year. However, he said the finance minister was working to improve local tax collection in the state in order to pay for ministers, advisors and technical advisors in the state government.
“We have not yet received the money yet, but we will manage from what we have to get all the salaries for the ministers and government advisors and technical advisors and others. This budget we get from the central [government] we will manage to control it and also we will manage to control the little things which we get in term of internally here and then with one which bring from Juba we will manage to put them together so that we will cover what we need”, added Dak.
The caretaker governor had been under pressure from state citizens demanding fair representation in the formation of the government, a calls which has forced him to appoint eight advisors and another seven more advisors various ministries.