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06KHARTOUM2636 2006-11-08 08:46:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Khartoum
Cable title:  

Southern Sudan: MoF Officials Investigated for Corruption

Tags:   PGOV ETRD SU 
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1. Summary: Five high-ranking officials in the Government of
Southern Sudan (GoSS) Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning
(MoF), including both under secretaries, have been suspended pending
a corruption investigation into procurement irregularities and
possible embezzlement of customs duties. The suspensions, ordered
by a GoSS presidential decree on October 29, names an investigative
commission and sets a November 10 deadline for determining if there
is enough evidence to pursue a case. While there have long been
allegations of corruption in the MoF, the timing may be related to
an attempt by the minister to deflect blame ahead of a legislative
investigation. End Summary.



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Of Cars and Customs


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2. The charges against Under Secretary of Finance Isaac Makur
relate to the misprocurement of over 100 Toyota trucks. Records
indicate the government paid USD90,000 each for the trucks, whose
actual cost in Juba is around USD45,000.



3. The other officials are being investigated under allegations
that exemptions were improperly granted and that none of the customs
duties that have been collected over the past year have made it into
the treasury. These officials are Under Secretary for Economic
Planning Francis Lotio, his two directors, Director for Budget Peter
Lany and Director for Taxation Michael Abola, and Deputy Director
for Taxation Tilet Plating.



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Real Problem: Lack of Systems


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4. The Acting Under Secretary at the MoF, Agarey Tisa, explained
that the Ministry is now working to establish clear guidelines on
procurement and the handling of tax receipts, which did not exist
before. For example, he pointed out that at least six different
agencies were directly ordering customs officers to provide
exemptions: the GoSS MoF, the national MoF, the GoSS Ministry of
Regional Cooperation, the national Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and
both the northern and southern agencies responsible for regulating
NGOs. The MoF is also now trying to harmonize the old SPLM tax
structures with those of the Government of National Unity (GNU).



5. Several government officials confided in PolOff that this same
lack of systems and record-keeping will make pursuing these cases
more difficult for the investigating commission and that at least
some of these officials will likely be cleared. While it is clear
the government overpaid for the vehicles and mishandled the taxes,
the commission must not only prove that the officials involved were
responsible, but that the acts were corruption and not incompetence
due to a lack of guidance.



6. The commission is led by Under Secretary for Legal Affairs Majok
Mading Majok, and made up of the chair of the Anti-Corruption
Commission, the Director of Police in the Ministry of Internal
Affairs, and representatives from both the Ministry of Labor and an
organization that represents civil servants. The Anti-Corruption
Commission is not leading the investigation due to a serious lack of
capacity, although observers have noted that it will be difficult
for the Ministry of Legal Affairs to lead an investigation in which
it may be called as a witness.



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A Deflection That May Ricochet Back


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7. In early October, the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA)
announced it had formed two committees to investigate these same
allegations. Shortly after the committees were formed, Minister of
Finance Arthur Chol sent a letter to GoSS President Salva Kiir
explaining he was firing these five officials for corruption. A
member of the SSLA told PolOff that he believes this was an
ill-conceived attempt by the minister to preempt the investigations
and deflect attention away from himself. President Kiir responded
that public officials cannot be dismissed without due process and
ordered the public investigation. Several government officials,
including a member of the investigation commission, confirmed that
the investigation will go where the evidence leads, even if that is
beyond the currently accused individuals.

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