Decreasing the Decrees on Undersecretaries in South Sudan

By Dr. James Okuk, PhD, Juba

September 27, 2013 (SSNA) — As the Republic of South Sudan is witnessing some changes in governmental structures, I would like to focus a bit on the case of the Undersecretaries serving now in different ministries in Juba. It has become a norm since 2005 to appoint Undersecretaries by powers of Presidential Decrees. The same Article 101 of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (2011) that legitimizes appoints of Ministers and other constitutional post holders are also applied to the offices of the Undersecretaries. However, the President needs to be advised to decrease these decrees.

As the dust of ministerial changes is settling now, the focus and questions are being directed as to when, H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir, the President of the Republic, is going to relieve the Undersecretaries whose ministries got merged together and appoint new ones. As a result of the merger some ministries have now found themselves accommodating four Undersecretaries unnecessarily. For how long is this anomaly going to continue?

Yes, Article 101 of the Transitional Constitution confers powers to the President of the Republic to appoint constitutional post holders, but do Undersecretaries need to be constitutional post holders? For me they don’t need to be, especially if they are regarded as professional career civil servants. If this is the case, why would the President continue to manufacture as many constitutional holders as the political position lobbyist could convince him? I think it is time to stop appointments of the Undersecretaries through Presidential decrees and then leave the matter to be dealt through a Ministerial Order in each of every Ministry.

The pros for this new approach are that it will encourage competition for professional competence in the Ministries. It will enhance performance as the Directors-General, Directors and Senior Civil Servants serving in the national government would find better incentive for aggressive competitiveness. Everyone would like to attain the categorization and award of the best among the rest since the top best is the one to be appointed by Ministerial Order (after a sincere vetting) to become the Undersecretary.

Not only these, but also the non-constitutional post holding Undersecretaries are going to respect the Ministers and work with them as a team that focus more on better performance than personality cult loyalties. These Undersecretaries would be like role-models for the junior staff as they aspire to ascend the career ladder without giving up at the beginning or in the middle. The Ministers would be in full command of their ministries as there would not be clash of powers from above where some Undersecretaries used to disrespect the Ministers on the basis that all of them have been appointed by Presidential Decree under the same constitutional Article 101.

This system of professionalizing the offices of the Undersecretaries works very well in Germany, United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Botswana, etc. If applied well and truthfully, the South Sudanese tendencies of tribalizing and regionalizing appointments to such position would disappear as the criteria would be “who knows what” rather than “who knows who” or “who came from where”.

But the cons of removing the Presidential Decrees from the Undersecretaries are that many of the veteran post gun-holders of the SPLM/A would lose out in the competition since they lack enough professional qualification credentials. They will start to hate the fact that even if this country has been liberated by Kalashnikov, it can never be built with the same bush liberation style. It will be too late for some of them to go back to school or university as their old age is irreparable.

Also those who are used to using their blood relations and friendship with the President of the Republic (even when they are not qualified for the top jobs) would feel betrayed and denied enjoyment of the privileges attached to those positions. They will resort to the maximum use of the solidarity and DDR funds, which shall cost the country coffers dearly in retrospect without considerable prospectus benefits.

Nonetheless, I would propose and advise that the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation should be exempted from these new desirable changes of decreasing the Presidential Decrees. These two main ministries of sovereignty should have Secretary-General each appointed by Presidential Decree, but they should not have Deputy Ministers. Each of these Secretary-Generals shall have the status of deputy Ministers. These two Ministries should have more Directors-General since they have a lot of departments handling multi-purposed files for executive affairs of the country, both internally and externally respectively.

Let’s try to implement the new proposed change of not using Presidential Decrees to appointment the new Undersecretaries for the lean National Cabinet. The small government needs to be followed by fewer presidential decrees. It is high time to try the idea of having non-constitutional post holding professional Undersecretaries.

Dr. James Okuk is reachable at [email protected]

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