February 25, 2014 (JUBA) - Authorities in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal have appointed the minister of local government and law enforcement agencies, Lino Adup Achier, as head of an investigatory committee tasked with establishing the facts surrounding the alleged misappropriation of 9.8 million South Sudanese pounds (SSP) from state coffers.
Assembled on the directive of state governor Paul Malong Awan, the committee will investigate who took the money, for what purpose and under what authority. It will also look at establishing the exact amount of public funds squandered in what appears to be syndicated activities allegedly involving several senior officials in the state administration.
Secretary-general Garang Kuot Kuot and several other officials have been suspended from their positions and arrested in the wake of the financial scandal, which forced authorities to withhold the salaries of teachers and other local workers for the entire month of December.
Meanwhile, information minister Jacqueline Nyibol protested allegations that Awan was involved in the scandal, despite claims from state officials that the central ministry of finance has documents showing her boss took some 2 million SSP.
Nyibol described reports by Sudan Tribune that the governor had used the funds to support military activities in Jonglei state, which has been the scene of a spiralling rebellion, as “unfounded allegations”.
“The government of Northern Bahr el Ghazal strongly condemns this unprofessional tarnishing of the good reputation of the government and its leader”, she said, without clarifying what, if any, funds, were diverted by the governor.
The report in question referred to allegations by state officials that Awan pocketed public funds in the name of supporting military operations.
In comments attributed to Awan during an emergency cabinet meeting upon his return to NBeG on 16 February, the governor denied that he had taken any money.
“People say I took the money, this is false. I actually paid 4 million South Sudan pounds when I first heard of reports of shortfalls in funds to pay the [state] employees. The only thing I took from here was [for] the Mathiang Anyoor”, said Awan on his return to the state from the capital, Juba, where he spent nearly three months.
Mathiang Anyoor refers to a military battalion comprising of youths, allegedly mobilised for recruitment and military training to serve as a reserve force loyal to president Salva Kiir.