Troika pleased by gov’t commitment to fight graft

Troika pleased by gov’t commitment to fight graft

The Troika countries comprising Norway, the United States and the United Kingdom have hailed the assurances by the Ministry of Finance and Planning to adhere to transparency and accountability.

The endorsement comes after the new minister, Agak Achuil Lual, pledged to maintain checks and balances during the meeting between President Salva Kiir and IMF Director of the African Department, Abebe Aemro Selassie, earlier last week.

The meeting discussed the economic outlook, reforms, and development prospects for South Sudan.

Troika members noted in a joint statement issued on Monday that such a move would enable citizens to enjoy the benefits of their country’s resources through better education, health and other public services.

“The government knows the IMF can only support governments that deliver economic reform, and that the IMF can only continue lending if the government can prove it is using the assistance to pursue agreed reforms,” the statement read in part.

“This means going beyond simply being accountable to the IMF for the use of resources lent by the fund.

“The government needs to demonstrate clearly to its people how much it contributes from its resources and how those resources are being used to benefit the South Sudanese people,’’ Troika noted.

It also requested the government to instil transparency in oil revenue, expenditure, debts and public procurement.

Corruption biggest problem

They further hinted that corruption was the biggest hindrance to development.  

According to them, a large portion of resources could go to organised forces and that government procurement systems are still weak, leading to the award of contracts without competition.

“Corruption continues to divert resources that should have benefitted the people,” Troika said.

“No annual accounts have been audited and debated by parliament since independence. Changes to these practices will allow more public resources to be channelled into more and better education, health, and other critical public services.”

The three countries indicated that South Sudan had proven that it was capable of implementing reforms. For instance, it has lowered cereal prices by 6 per cent while the rest of the world has it on the rise to 18 per cent.

“The cancellation of $650 million loan guarantee has saved each South Sudanese woman, man and child about $50 in debt they would otherwise have had to contribute taxes to pay off,” the group revealed in the statement.

“These reforms are only the start and much more will be needed. Food prices remain higher than the vast majority of South Sudanese cannot afford.”

The Pledge

Agak assured visiting IMF delegation that the finance ministry would closely observe transparency and accountability in handling public resources as well as government expenditure.

This was after President Salva Kiir warned him against tolerating theft of public funds which according to Kiir had massively enriched some previous ministers who occupied the docket.

He directed Agak to ensure civil servants and organised forces received their monthly salaries on time and to stop bribery, as well as give reports on how much money the government had.

Agak was also directed to report any corrupt government official to the president for immediate action to be taken.

However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged the government to apply accountability in all the government services.

The IMF Director of the African Department, Abebe Aemro Selassie, last week called upon the government to make reasonable strides towards accountability and transparency in government expenditure.

He acknowledged the negative impacts of inadequate finances on South Sudanese, which he said were inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, and national catastrophes like floods.

He said IMF was committed to rendering its support to South Sudan highlighting that the support from IMF had helped in the unification of foreign exchange initiative.

“In the coming weeks and months, we hope to support the government in its endeavours to make sure that these very important areas of accountability and reforms are addressed and we will do our utmost to provide policy advice.”

Abebe revealed that the auditor general was working on audit reports of the IMF’s disbursements.

 “Topic of tackling corruption, improving governance is one of the higher priorities that we see in this country, given how much resources are needed to promote development here, to build schools, clinics, roads”, he said.