How rot in Finance Ministry ate Athian

How rot in Finance Ministry ate Athian

President Salva Kiir waved his notorious political axe once more, dismissing Athian Diing Athian (pictured)from the docket of finance and economic planning as he conducted major surgery in one of the country’s most crucial ministries.

The change, which was announced on the state-run television station SSBC on Friday, was unprecedented but had the usual vibes: President Kiir never attached reasons for the dismissal.

The finance docket is at the heart of the country’s operations, commanding the collection of oil and non-oil revenues and playing a critical role in crafting fiscal policies and ensuring civil servants receive their paychecks. Its importance has so far attracted attention and made several heads roll, including the immediate official, Mr Athian.

While he has remained silent over many changes, President Salva Kiir on Saturday wore different colours as he offered unflinching pieces of advice to Agak Achuil Lual, the incoming finance boss, telling him not to fall into the trap of his predecessors.

It was his speech at the swearing-in of the new ministers that opened up the ugly state of affairs that has eaten into the ministry of finance and made a mockery of a salient docket.

Here, President Kiir revealed the rot in the ministry of finance that has drained the country’s economy. He spoke of a massive breach of procedures and laws as well as widespread corrupt practices that spilt over beyond the borders.

He made his message succinct but punchy, as he warned against engaging in corruption, bribery, and delaying salaries of government employees, as well as operating independently without roping in the office of the head of the state.

Reasons for dismissal

As he gave the incoming officials the message of ‘‘help yourself to help me help you’’, the president took his time to tell the country the major reasons that have led to the high turnover rate at the ministry of finance.

Kiir said the ministers he previously sacked have been siphoning public funds and rechannelling them to other countries through their private accounts, hence delaying salaries of civil servants and organised forces.

“Someone comes and opens his bank accounts in an unknown different place and begins to siphon the country’s money to build storage houses that way. This is what my previous staff have been doing, ” Kiir revealed.

He said the ministers at the finance docket, whom he did not mention, indulged in corruption and misappropriated South Sudan’s revenue to enrich themselves at the expense of the vulnerable population in the country.

Mr Athian’s predecessors include Salvatore Garang Mabiordit—who was at some point accused of corruption and mismanagement of funds— and Stephen Dhieu Dau, who served for more than five years between 2013 and 2018.

 Kiir, who sounded bitter, warned the incumbent finance minister to avoid falling into the footsteps of the former ministers.

 “Agak Achuil, I have two things to tell you: one, don’t follow what your predecessors did, don’t follow them. And the things these people did to me… for one thing, they didn’t tell me how much money was on the shelf, and the money was under me. If the minister cannot report to me what is on the shelves of the government, then to whom will you report? ” said Kiir.

Allegations

International and national firms have accused some individuals in the youngest African country, South Sudan, of gross corruption and mismanagement that has robbed the country and its people of service delivery.

Early this month, the American-based anticorruption group, The Sentry, released a report accusing unnamed South Sudan officials of siphoning the country’s revenue to fund real estate businesses in Kenya.

The report stated that some South Sudanese politically exposed persons (PEPs), who were responsible for the conflicts, had infiltrated Kenyan banking, real estate, trade, defence, and corporate enterprises with their ill-gotten gains.

“In one instance, a South Sudanese PEP purchased a luxury home using a US dollar-denominated account held at the Ugandan branch of a Kenyan bank,’’ partly read the report.

However, the Minister of Information and Government Spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth rubbished it saying it had unsubstantiated claims aimed at tarnishing the names of South Sudanese leaders.

“Sentry Group is a group that was working with us, and when we fell [out] with them, they turned against us, and they are now writing all sorts of nonsense about us which cannot in any way be proven to be right.

“They avoid us, then they go and write outside. These reports are unfounded and biased because some of these writers have been with us for some time. We were working together then, and we know the reason why we fell out, ” Makuei told reporters this month after the regular Council of Ministers meeting.

Auditor’s plea

In September this year, the South Sudan National Audit Chamber called for the observance of rules and regulations that should be applied to all payments against money from all sources, including International Monetary Fund loans, grants, and government revenue.

The speaker, Steven Kiliona Wöndu, spoke a day after President Kiir stopped a transaction worth $650 million with private firms over fears of credibility. The international lenders had asked the government to exercise caution in the use of the money.

There had been reports of corruption and mismanagement of the oil revenue under the custody of the ministry of finance and the country’s central banks, including the 2 and 3 per cent of the community in the oil states.

In April this year, the South Sudan Audit Chamber released an intriguing report showing that over $5 billion in shares of the oil-producing states and communities were misappropriated by influential individuals.

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