June 18, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit has suspended two federal ministers from their duties and lifted their immunities to be investigated for a corruption related case.
- FILE – South Sudan minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor Kuol(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
In a republican order read on the state-owned SSTVon Tuesday, Kiir suspended the minister of Cabinet Affairs, Deng Alor Kuol and the minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kosti Manibe Ngai, and lifted their immunities so that they are investigated for a suspected theft.
The president implicated the two ministers, Alor and Ngai for a shady request and transfer, respectively, of over 7 million US dollars to a company known as Daffy Investment Ltd.
The two ministers transferred the money to the private company without knowledge or authorization from the president or the cabinet for alleged purchase of anti-fire safes on behalf of the government.
- FILE – South Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kosti Manibe Ngai, at a briefing for the news media on April 20, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (IMF Photo/Cliff Owen)
In a subsequent order Kiir formed an investigation committee headed by the anti-corruption chairperson, John Gatwech Lul, to investigate the two ministers and report the findings to the president within sixty days.
The terms of reference for the investigation will include establishing who authorized the transfer of the money and whether there was a resolution from the cabinet approving the alleged purchase of anti-fire safes.
The committee will also investigate whether there was a contract approved and signed by the government and whether such alleged anti-fire safes were brought into the country as well as the whereabouts of the money, among others.
The president’s order also calls for criminal prosecution of the two ministers should the outcome of the investigation find that the transfer of money was an act of theft.
The order which came as a surprise is the first of its kind following president Kiir’s letter to 75 senior current and former officials in his government whom he suspected of stealing a disputed figure of $4 billion US dollars over six years period.
It was not clear whether the two national ministers are among the list of the undisclosed 75 suspected officials.
There are speculations as to why the president chose to act selectively this time.
An official in the ministry of finance and economic planning told Sudan Tribune that the president’s action against the finance minister could have resulted from the minister’s recent order in which he transferred a number of senior staff from the ministry.
The staff threatened the minister and reportedly forwarded their petition to the president asking him to force the minister to reverse his decision.
A political commentator who asked for anonymity said Cabinet minister Deng Alor might be a victim of the ongoing party wrangles as he is seen to have withdrawn his support from the president Salva Kiir who also chairs the ruling party, SPLM.
The order mandates the deputy cabinet minister Wek Mamer Kuol to act in the place of Alor while the first deputy finance minister, Marial Awou, will act in the place of Ngai.
If prosecuted for an act of corruption, the two ministers will be the first senior government and party officials to be prosecuted over corruption since 2005 when the ruling party and the president came to power.
Alor and Ngai are senior figures in the ruling party as both are members of the SPLM highest political organ, the political bureau, as well as members of the national liberation council.
A similar attempt failed in 2007 when the authorities tried to detain and prosecute the former finance minister, Arthur Akuen Chol, also member of the Council of States, over corruption.
Akuen was unlawfully set free by his community members who mobilized and stormed the detention center where he was being kept.