Dura Saga Inquest: An Anti-Graft War or Kangaroo’s Justice?

By Deng Vanang

June 1, 2013 (SSNA) — A couple of weeks ago, President Salva Kiir Mayardit renewed once gain his anti-corruption crusade against those he said have engaged in the illicit acts of robbing South Sudanese public. In departure from his previously botched up anti-graft war pronouncements, this time he sounded somehow real. That is in as far as ordering Honorable Justice John Luk Jok to form the investigation committee from his National Ministry of Justice to look into Dura Scandal. The scandal is one of the high profile financial malpractices with which the new country has been grappling for years. Hence, the launch on Tuesday, May 14th of an investigation to apprehend the culprits linked with the lost of SSP 3.6 billion.

The said culprits were the owners of the various companies that signed Dura contracts with the then autonomous government of Southern Sudan back in 2009. Those companies were contracted by the government to supply Dura {sorghum} to already hunger –stricken areas as well as others in hunger preparedness in Southern Sudan. But some of the culprits used the opportunity to receive fraudulent payments. Partly as the result of exaggerated amount paid and received huge sums of money whose goods were not delivered to the intended destinations or anywhere else, government said.

The already set up investigation team is comprised of seven senior officials. Prominent among them are Undersecretary, Director – General of contracts and Registrar of companies in the Justice Ministry headed by Prosecutor – General. And as the term of reference for the team, Minister Luk clarified to the public that the investigation will target 39 companies without legal documents but received large payments and more than 300 companies with legal documents but over paid as well. Those are the blacklisted companies to be thoroughly investigated.

The rest off the hook are white companies deemed to have concluded a better deal with the government by delivering Dura to state governments as instructed by ex-Minister of GoSS Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Honorable Kuol Athian.

Past and present Honorable Governors accused to have colluded with the Dura thieves by lying to have received the Dura and signed forged clearance papers are Paul Malong Awan of Northern Bhar-Elgazal, Tor Deng Mawien of Warap, Daniel Awet Akot of Lakes, Taban Deng Gai of Unity, Aloisio Ojetuk of Eastern Equatoria and Mark Nyipouch of Western Bhar-Elgazal.

Too, involved in the mega financial saga is Mr. Athian including his two predecessors, Honorable Deng Athor Bie and Kosti Manibe Ngai, all accused of preparing poor tendering guidelines or failing to adhere to the rules of financial disbursement and strict follow up procedures on the one hand. While on the other, Honorable Michael Makuei Lueth, former Minister whose Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development issued companies under question with registration certificates whose obvious intention was to get the money without necessarily delivering the Dura needed.

President’s renewed statement on zero tolerance on corruption though long overdue is highly welcomed news by all citizens of this country robbed of their future by a few individual thieves whether big or small. However, despite this wonderful move President’s anti-corruption crusade is facing some hiccoughs for it seems to have sacred cows safely tethered far and above the slaughter house. And that hint of favoritism has made the move to be decried by Dura victims as witch hunt than genuine concern to arrest run away corruption in the country.

To hammer a bitter point home they argue, President offered them as living sacrifices on the altar of political expediency to the electorate already in rage. And therefore, it is a callous move by President desperate to atone for his unforgivable sins with the hope that looming election may reprieve his presidency from the tall gallows to which wild public opinion has already condemned it, they insist.

For heaven sake, they ask: why hitting the snake {corruption} from its harmless tail instead of its more dangerous head? They believe their theft of a paltry SSP 70,000,000 millions has less affected the national treasury than that of $4 billion United States Dollars siphoned off by a handful of 75 thieves who happened to become 75 millionaires among the 8 million plus damn poor South Sudanese unable to have one square meal a day.

They appeal for judicial leniency, for they said they have shared the so called swindled money with more than 8 million poor South Sudanese, some of whom indirectly benefited from government money for the first time since the time CPA was ushered into being. In a typical South Sudanese culture of sharing generously, they say this money benefited their families, close relatives and friends. Also general public gained from services and employment from the businesses they set up with that money. In fact they are the latter day Robin Hoods of South Sudan who have raided the public coffer on behalf of those poor out of reach of the government’s benefits, while the 75 millionaires have stashed their loots away in foreign banks to the benefit of non-South Sudanese, they stated.

The last they expected of President now is parading them first before an investigation team a head of the most dangerous burglars, those who swindled 4 billion Dollars enough to be two years national budget for the government at the time. Or at least there could be parallel investigations, one for them, they the chickens’ owners and another for 75 millionaires, taking place simultaneously, they pleaded.

Based on that argument to my own personal understanding, President whether deliberately or unintentionally has already stirred the hornet’s nest by hitting the chicken thieves with an iron bar while sparring off with 4 billion dollars criminals in kit gloves.

He has done it in more than one way. He projected a false image of these chicken thieves as if they were the only people who stole from the government. Then, what of tenths of billions of Dollars unaccounted for that have disappeared with known but untouchable swindlers who are moving up and about freely. He allowed his good Minister Honorable Luk by chasing around town these petty thieves already on the run heads over heels in the heat and dust filled Juba while his colleague accomplices remain to enjoy in ice cold air conditioned and cozier offices with all trappings of power unperturbed. The President has also bungled justice by unilaterally acquitting one accomplice in the crime. That is Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development, currently Ministry of Justice whose members Minister Justice Luk has appointed to judge their fellow accomplices in the case in contravention of principle of natural justice that says no one can be the judge of his own cause.

Moreover, President has deprived Anti-corruption Commission of its prerogative to investigate suspects involved in financial crimes as its constitutional mandate for which huge taxpayers’ money has been paid and not Ministry of Justice. This is first opportunity coming to Anti-corruption body in seven years to at least try somebody or somebodies. Otherwise Anti-corruption Commission is being rendered jobless while a lot of money is paid to it since its formation in 2006. That is quit a big issue that can even bring another corruption case to the fore for investigation. For hundred millions of Dollars have been deliberately invested in non-functional institution will prompt people to raise more suspicions. One of these suspicions would be his wrong choice of Justice Ministry as an investigator in order to confuse the public and shield some of its elements involved in the same financial crime they are ironically investigating.

President too has trampled up on separation of powers by allowing the accuser, Ministry of Justice to try the accused. The Ministry supposes to support the prosecution of the suspects on behalf of the government and therefore, cannot be the judge to the ones it has accused or together with whom they are accomplices in the case.

Procedurally, it is an Anti-corruption Commission to investigate and recommend the prosecution of all the individual suspects in any financial saga to the Judiciary or courts of law before which they will defend themselves against pressed charges by government’s Attorneys from National Ministry of Justice.

Also against legal procedure, co-suspects {Governors and Ministers} in the multi-million fraud are not being asked to step aside from their current powerful positions {which they can use to subvert justice} to face an investigation until they are either in total or in parts cleared of wrongdoing. Thus, appointing co –accused, Justice Ministry, to be a judge while leaving out the faulted Governors and Finance and economic Planning Ministers heavily immersed in the fraud makes the anti-graft war appear more of a witch hunt against the powerless than being a genuine crusade to deal with corruption by the President in the country.

Deng Vanang, is a Journalist and Executive member of official opposition party, SPLM-DC. He can be reached at:[email protected]

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