A group of major donors that supports South Sudan has appealed to the unity government to make relevant oil and non-oil revenue data available to the public, in a move towards public financial management reforms.
In a joint statement seen by The EastAfrican on Saturday, Troika (United States, United Kingdom and Norway) said this would enhance transparency and accountability for the benefit of all South Sudanese.
“In achieving this we stress that fiscal data – including on oil and non-oil revenues – should be published on the Ministry of Finance and Planning website regularly and without delay.
“Information should also be made public on any outstanding balance owed to Sudan on the Transitional Financing Arrangement and on any debt Sudan may now owe South Sudan from the oil it receives in kind each day,” said Troika.
The alliance stressed the importance of continuing and further strengthening the current reforms, which demonstrate the government's commitment to the reform process and enhance trust with international partners.
“We urge South Sudan’s unity government and those now charged with leading economic recovery to continue such reforms, in line with R-ARCSS and South Sudan’s commitments under the IMF Staff Monitored Program,” the statement added.
The Troika stressed that continued respect for the moratorium on incurring new non-concessional debt, including not issuing letters of guarantee, will spare ordinary citizens the burden of higher taxes or reduced public spending in the future.
It further emphasised that sound monetary policy is key to maintaining low inflation and a stable exchange rate, both of which will help shield the people of South Sudan from rising prices.
“This means that the Bank of South Sudan must refrain from any monetary financing of the budget deficit.
“We also stress the need for the budget to be debated and passed by the Revitalized Transitional Legislature and highlights that a fully functional Cash Management Committee is key to sound spending in line with budgetary allocations,” Troika added.
The donors said they anticipate a full and complete audit of the second tranche of the IMF loan, as well as further progress on anti-money laundering reforms as per the Financial Action Task Force Plan.
“We reiterate our commitment to a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan, in which the population benefits from public services, underpinned by transparent and accountable public financial management,” the alliance added.
A report released by the United Nations Human Rights Commission last year said that $73 million was embezzled from South Sudan’s national coffers since 2018.
Following the report, rights activists said that corruption is rife in the country as it is condoned by politicians and government institutions.
The UN report was followed by an alleged grand corruption deal which prompted President Salva Kiir last year to order his then Finance and Economic Planning Minister Athian Diing to cancel a Sovereign Guarantee transaction worth $650 million.
In addition, South Sudan’s Auditor General in a report late last year also said there were “ineligible payments amounting to $2,134,080 made to individual accounts and $849,830 irregularly spent on salary arrears from June 2019 to July 2020 in foreign missions.”
During the audit, the Auditor General said the government also failed to provide supporting documentation for payments amounting to $468,287.
In September 2020, the US imposed additional economic sanctions on a company owned or controlled by Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal, for his role in corruption connected to the South Sudanese government.
In October 2019, Kur Ajing Ater was also sanctioned alongside Al-Cardinal, after the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Department (OFAC) accused him of robbing Juba of its critical resources.
In April this year, the United Kingdom sanctioned Sudanese businessman Al-Cardinal over corruption and involvement in businesses that fuel conflict in South Sudan.
Money laundering, embezzlement of funds
In 2020, South Sudan was ranked as the most corrupt country in the East African region.
The report by Transparency International ranked the country as the second most corrupt across the globe, followed by Somalia. Syria took the lead.
In October 2020, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights accused some South Sudanese politicians and senior government officials of embezzling at least $36 million since 2016.
In December the same year, The Sentry reported that some South Sudanese leaders laundered money and engaged in grand corruption through networks in the United Kingdom.
According to the 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index from the UN Development Programme in sub-Saharan Africa, the level of inequality in South Sudan is described as “massive”. The report estimates the inequality to be at 91.9 per cent in South Sudan.