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South Sudan army lambasts corruption in military spending

January 27, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudanese army on Friday angrily reacted to a report by a Washington-based human watchdog group accusing the military of looting national resources in total lack of accountability and transparency.

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A SPLA soldier stands in front of a vehicle in Juba on December 20, 2013. (Photo Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

Enough Project estimated that more than 100,000 "ghost" soldiers could be on the military’s payroll, allowing for commanders and military leaders to boost their incomes or reputations.

Army spokesperson Colonel Santo Dominic Chol denied in an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune on Friday the charges, calling the findings “baseless” and mere propaganda machine to tarnish the institutional image of the South Sudanese army.

“It is irresponsible and reckless" to talk about this nonsense when people who spew these malicious lie and propaganda, know what the SPLA do to ensure stability and avoid the country sliding in anarchy. People who say these rubbishes show a lack of appreciation of the kind of work we do as the national army”, said Col. Chol, claiming the army has its ways of reporting.

The military officer acknowledged that military expenditure was rising, but said this was due to an upsurge in military operations in defend of the country in areas where rebels are active.

“So they want the army not to be funded, and when we are funded, we should come out to say this is what we have procured with the budget? Where in the world you have the army go and announced weapons they have purchased, tell me”, asked Col. Chol when reached on Friday.

The Enough Project report which analyzed violent kleptocracy as “a system of state in which ruling networks and commercial partners hijack governing institutions for the purpose of resource extraction and for the security of the regime. The ruling networks, it explains, utilize varying levels of violence to maintain power and repress dissenting voices.

The report published on Thursday, gives details of massive corruption within South Sudan’s army. It notes that corrupt activities within the army include procurement fraud, irregular spending unchecked by civilian authority, and bloated troop rosters featuring thousands of “ghost” (non-existent) soldiers.

Brian Adeba, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said “The effect of corruption in proliferating insecurity in South Sudan cannot be underestimated. The country’s politicians can only begin to realize the fruits of security for their citizens if they tackle the graft in the army.”

The report describes how despite widespread suffering in South Sudan, including famine-like conditions and the severe economic hardships South Sudanese people experience, massive amounts of the country’s dwindling funds continue to go to the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), where they are diverted and misspent without accountability.

Jacinth Planer, report editor and Editor/Researcher at the Enough Project noted that “On paper, South Sudan’s legal and institutional frameworks enshrine civilian, not military leadership. The SPLA is meant to protect, defend, and hold itself accountable to the South Sudanese people. But the destructive system and practices that have developed now instead work against these purposes, and the South Sudanese people who face great personal risks have paid the highest price. The international community should steadfastly support the South Sudanese people and especially those who try to uphold the institutions that are being undermined today.”

The report finds that within what enough identifies as a violent kleptocratic system in South Sudan, a lack of financial oversight over military expenditure, combined with heavy influence by political appointees, has created opportunities for mass corruption in the SPLA.

John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project observed that "There is no accountability for the looting of state resources in South Sudan, especially with military spending. The missing piece of an effective international response is the creation of leverage to shift the calculations of these violent kleptocrats from war to peace, from mass corruption—including in the military—to good governance and accountability in spending. The incentives that reward violence and theft must be changed. The international community needs to help make war costlier than peace for the leaders and create targeted and personal consequences for corrupt war-mongers.”

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