South Sudan is still awarding contracts worth billions of dollars to companies owned by individuals designated for sanctions.
In a detailed investigative report seen by The EastAfrican, The Sentry, a US-based investigative and policy lobby group, says President Salva Kiir’s administration has disregarded the sanctions and that “several companies that have received billions in dollar-denominated contracts from the government of South Sudan over the past three years.
The report says the firms "are owned by relatives of Ajing and Bol Mel, who are the likely beneficial owners, according to incorporation records, contracts and social media posts reviewed by The Sentry.”
The Sentry says that the companies were registered after Ajing and Bol Mel were designated for sanctions by the United States.
Debra LaPrevotte, The Sentry senior investigator, describes the government’s move as a sad indication of the Kiir regime's lack of interest in fighting corruption.
“The activities detailed in our recent investigation further expose the unchecked looting of the country's wealth and resources, as those in power continue to line their pockets, undermine stability, and sell out South Sudan's future," she said.
Justyna Gudzowska, Sentry director of Illicit Finance Policy said, “Most critically now, banks and other financial institutions should be on the lookout for, and conduct appropriate due diligence on, the individuals and entities spotlighted in this report.
“The size of the contracts totaling over $4 billion and Ajing and Bol Mel’s level of influence and access in Juba make it likely that officials involved in the contracting process knew the alleged beneficial owners of the companies,” she said.
The Sentry added that the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan flagged at least one of the contracts given to a Bol Mel-connected company, ARC Resources, for inconsistencies with the national budget.
“The Sentry was able to verify that at least some of these contracts were no-bid, indicating that government spending continues to provide opportunities for largescale corruption.
‘‘The fact that the contracts were in dollars makes it likely that the funds have touched the US financial system,” the report adds.