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Articles and Analysies Last Updated: Dec 20, 2009 - 3:34:53 PM

Open Letter to the Government of Southern Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, His Excellency Dr David Deng Athorbei By Isaiah Abraham
Sudaneseonline.com

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Open Letter to the Government of Southern Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, His Excellency Dr David Deng Athorbei

By Isaiah Abraham

 

Greetings!

Honourable GoSS Minister of Finance, it might get you by surprise to address you in public, but since the matters at hands are public in nature, and that it is not easy to pass the message through since the content could be touching on people around there, I opted to come open and state the few observations pertaining our finance system in the area of administration of finances generally but on other related fiscal necessities.

Honourable Minister, I must submit early here that you are a man with a tough job; it is not for the faint-hearted people, due to inherent challenges as eyes are on this post, particularly these days when it attracts interest and attention for the wrong reasons. The expectations are high from everyone including politics than politicians, but my humble word, just to begin, is to stick your neck out beyond anything and do something about some of the issues that might come out from this argument plus all others you and your other team members have. Some colleagues and advisors have actually approached you for any of these and it is good that we remind ourselves often, unless we forget.

But before we get there, let me crown this argument by personalising it thus: I personally know you from the time you served as member of one of the Boards; you featured as an academic star and a detailed oriented person. Your London Business second degree (MBA) skills were then put into good use, hence my appreciation to His Excellency the President of our Government (GOSS), His Excellency Genearal Salva Kiir Mayardit for offering you an opportunity to serve our people. Congratulations!

This is where I thought you could start: induction. By induction you will have sorted out issues that have heaped up on the ministry but naturally they aren’t the making of the ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. One of them for instance is the lack of understanding from the public and other stakeholders on how the finance system works, or limits it has as far as spending and allocation of resources are concerned. There are channels before the Ministry actually does something on its own, and this must be known. Be as open as you can to reduce some of the raised complains by the public and departments.

We have ministries that always spend beyond their actual projected budgets and then cry wolf against the finance ministry, ignoring the basics of spending; that if your expenditures exceeds your actual scheduled budget that has been approved by the Cabinet, then you have no any right to make noise against anyone. It is true your ministry has tried to educate other ministries, but you got to keep it going until everyone comes to understand why we need a budget in the first place.

The other is to make your budget proposal more realistic and relevant. It has to be economically measurable and carefully designed to attend to growth. That is self explanatory and would expect next time you come over to read our national budget, it has to reflect those realities more clearly.

The existence of foreigners in your ministry is another issue of concern. Whoever planted them, be it the World Bank or anybody else doesn’t understand the implication these men and women have caused to our society. Majority of them don’t have basic finance skills save for book keeping skills and perhaps elementary finance details in their universities but that cannot be of any use to deep state finance forecasts and analysis, especially that those officers are shouldered with responsibilities of planning for the country.

Unabashedly, they are paid ten times higher than the Sudanese counterparts in the same ministry; what do you think the public will say about our government in that regard? Mr Benjamin West Ayali for instance who is there is one of our own with skills but still gets one forth of what the foreigners receive a month.

Maybe you need to look for sub- contract periodical finance officers from outside and do away with these parasites who are contributing zero to our economy; we have our sons and daughters in Europe , Asia and Americans doing odd jobs to the Kawajat when they should be doing decent jobs to their people at home.

The relevant regulatory laws that were passed by Parliament two years ago are rusting and this is not acceptable. Why make a law and not operationalise it? You need to follow it up in spirit and ensure that those laws take their courses; whenever a ministry or unit feels like going astray the law will act as a deterrent. These laws have tied every hand including the President’s because Honourable Martin Majut on behalf of the big man keeps on ignoring them. None is above the law.

Clearly spell out expenditure assignments and revenue entitlements. Do something about spending priorities and authorisation so much so that services such as education and health get an improvement. Make an effective and accurate reporting system a must and let it be on time. This will help your Ministry detect errors quickly and rectify them besides its transparency purpose. Fiscal laws and discipline are not followed and we cry about corruption, why don’t we be disciplined enough about our resources? The random movements by key leaders outside the country even when they have flu must come to an end.

Rwanda, our neighbour, is one exemplary country under President Paul Kagame. This country leads many developing countries on financial discipline; the head of the government’s budget clearly writes the fiscal rules that are then followed religiously; the same is true with the rest of other key government officials. Surely if we mean business of development and progress, we must sacrifice our short gains and look for the betterment of other Southerners outside there who die of hunger and thirst; the same leaders today are building financial empires with no real sweat. Corruption will not go away alone, efforts concertedly are needed today before the Referendum in January 2011.

Sir, I hope that I am not boring you on issues you already know, am I?  Again here you need to have the national budget encompassing areas of economic spells. Market for example as one faithful economic discipline is left into the hands of heartless individuals. Prices, for example, especially food and other essential commodities are going up everyday and none is taking any care in the Ministry of Trade and Commerce. The suffering Southerner in this economic hardship cries in silence. He or she buys a 50 - kilograms bag of maize at over 85 Sudanese Pounds up from 65 Sudanese Pounds few weeks ago.

The same is true with a gallon of diesel fuel from 8-9 Sudanese Pounds to between 12 and 13 Sudanese Pounds today. Others such as sugar, a kilo of meat, rice and wheat flour have all jumped, when they should have dived due to world financial troubles; our government must not be quiet; Sir, who do you think  will serve our people when aliens have turned the cash on against our lives?

The only commodity however on ‘fair’ price is bread, thanks to our kind hearted brothers from Lebanon and Eritrea who run most of those ovens. The government must regulate our market; the demand and supply policy of the market must not be applied here; even then the government has a moral obligation to help citizens from rowdy business persons.

Things have changed for the better and traders should have lowered prices; there is no point of extorting the public at day break. Agree with the trade docket and disband the Chamber. The old men and young boys from Kakuma have become billionaires overnight there.

The other is to tap the private sector. We have as many international organisations as you can imagine and most of them are doing little to our economy. After all, 70 percent of their staff members are foreigners and are paid more than enough without being taxed. Mr Elijah Malok, then at Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SRRC), did something in Rumbek in early 2000 and our few educated Southerners were employed after he brawled with directors of these organisations on the need to employ Southerners in their organisations.

From that moment, we are seeing many international organisations not honoring that part of the understanding. You need at least to ask them to pay one Honourable Simon Kun Puoch who has since gone to sleep over his job and maybe wake him up from his slumber. The remote areas outside Juba are worse hit by influx of international personnel and something must be changed. The little they will pay will go all the way to help our people. Aweil, Northern Gogrial and Abyei alone are spots seriously swamped by the international organisations; there is no need to talk here about the quality of their work.

No one is against foreigners, they have done partly well, but if they could at least pay us taxes the same way we paid taxes when we got into supermarkets in London or New York then no one will raise an eyebrow. As seen above and just to elaborate, we also need Sudanese citizens in key places; the believe that portray Sudanese as unqualified must come to an end. Unless your accent comes closer to Bush Senior, you are not qualified. That is just not right and has to change. Their standards in the international organisations must be put at par with their colleagues in the other parts of the Sudan .

Your unit in charge of collection of taxes needs a thorough whiting out and re-organisation, but more importantly, they badly need to benefit from the technology in the present era. Manual work for money was abandoned a long time ago; computerised systems have taken over and therefore in Nadapal, Nimule and Kaya, your team in the tax department could do remittances online and everything could be monitored easily in Juba.

Perhaps the most urgent issue is the need to cross-examine the kind of team you have. Apart from few individuals rightfully in that ministry, the majority of your staff are not up to their jobs. Do what His Excellency the Chairman of the South Sudan Peace Commission did (His Excellency Louis Lobong Aribokinyang) when he re-advertised senior positions afresh. The quality of subordinates determines the performance and this is proven. Make sure that you have skilled personnel to take care of financial affairs. Take the Procurement Unit for example, with the exception of the Director General Mr Chris Lobojo, the then Minister of Finance Mr Arthur Akuein awarded key positions to people close to him and Mr Kuol Athian did nothing but ‘bala’ everything ‘thiin’.

Sir, it must have been long and perhaps a repetition of what you know best, but I deemed it right to share with you given my experiences with you. I must again say that you are a right man and unless you succumb, which I doubt you will, the South shall keep her heads high and that we shall see changes coming out of the Ministry of Finance right among from us, not Khartoum. Money is almost everything and unless it is managed properly and efficiently, there will be no future as far as development is concerned.

 


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