By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 3rd December 2021
This part Five of this article looks into some recent developments relating to the South Sudan Audit Chamber, fighting corruption, and the R-ARCSS reforms agenda on “RESOURCE, ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT”.
While recently welcoming the government’s assurances that “it will provide far greater transparency over revenues (including oil), spending, and on levels of debt and public procurement,” the Troika statement by the US, UK and Norway on economic reform in South Sudan and the engagement with the International Monetary Fund IMF said “corruption continues to divert resources that should have benefit the people.”
“No annual accounts have been audited and debated by Parliament since Independence. Changes to these will allow more public resources to be channeled into more and better education, health and other critical public services,” the statement said.
As far as auditing is concerned, concerns that exist are several. On transparency, credibility, checks and balances, and so on. On one hand, its about the reports from the auditor general and on the other, its about annual audit reports, special reports and related issues.
There is also an issue of lack of cooperation by some institutions. Regarding that, in an interview, Stephen Wondu, the Auditor General, has said the following:
“I have made efforts. We have written what we call engagement letters. And we haven’t got the cooperation. And our mandate doesn’t give us power to do anything more than that. So what we do is what I’ve just done, I report that that I never got. One of the areas where I have not succeeded is I’ve not received financial statements for audits.”
The several reforms provided for in the R-ARCSS, as as mentioned here below in this article, include that during the Transitional Period, the executive supervises and facilitates the reforms and reconstitution of the Commissions and Institutions, including the National Audit Chamber, “paying particular attention to the mandate and appointments, to ensure their independence and accountability” ( see Article 22.214.171.124.) and others.
Problematic Provisions of the law:
Section 42 (1) of the Audit Chamber Act, 2011 says the accounts of the Chamber shall be audited every financial year, by an independent external Auditor(s) appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Auditor General. About that, the Auditor General has admitted that is a problem and that has written to parliament to change that law. “Let parliament be the one to appoint, not but the auditor general,” he said.
However, beyond that, on Checks and Balances, what can be seen is Section 17(3) of the Audit Chamber Act 2011 which has provided that “a tribunal may be appointed by the President if considered necessary within one month to inquire into the complaints against the Auditor General before the matter is referred to the Assembly, and shall compose of the following members:
a) Justice of the Supreme Court of the Judiciary of South Sudan;
b) Chairperson of the Public Service Commission;
c) Chairperson of the Audit Standards Council;
d) Counsel General of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and
Constitutional Development; and
e) Two eminent persons from civil society organisations with similar
and relevant objectives and programmes.”
The Audit Chamber in the R-ARCSS period:
The review of the the National Audit Chamber Act 2011, the Agreement says, shall be done within three (3) months of the Transitional Period. (Article 4.5.1.)
Further, the Agreement says:
-The Chamber shall be independent and carry out its functions without political interference;
-The revised National Audit Chamber Act 2011 shall provide for the qualifications of a National Auditor-General, which shall among others, include wide-ranging knowledge of public finance and extensive experience in auditing or public finance management;
-Within four (4) months of the Transitional Period, the President shall in consultation and agreement with the First Vice President, and the Vice Presidents nominate a National Auditor-General for approval by the TNLA.
On Central Account and Auditable Processes:
The R-ARCSS says:
– The RTGoNU shall ensure that all revenues due to the government derived from petroleum and other natural resources are collected centrally into a “single treasury account,” and that those revenues are managed and spent responsibly and in accordance with the laws of South Sudan using predictable, auditable processes for the benefit of the people;
– All revenue collected for or by the National Revenue Authority shall be pooled and administered by the National Revenue Authority in a “single treasury account.” Such funds shall include all sub-accounts into which monies due to the National Government are collected, reported, deposited and audited.
– The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning shall identify all loans and contracts collateralized or guaranteed with oil, checked, and made publicly available for the purposes of transparency and accountability;
-The National Audit-Chamber shall audit and report on all public funds and financial dealings to relevant institutions generally and in particular to the Transitional National Legislative Assembly or to a State Assembly.
And as far as audit reports are concerned, the R-ARCSS says, the TNLA shall receive pending reports of the Audit Chamber within six (6) months of the start of the Transitional Period, adding that subsequent reports shall be received in accordance with the law.
After receiving an audit report, the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and or the State Legislative Assembly, as the case may be, shall immediately debate and consider the report and take appropriate action, the agreement says.
Article 4.14.8. says All revenues, expenditures, deficits, and debts of the RTGoNU shall be accounted for and the information shall be made accessible to the public. An annual report which details the RTGoNU financial activities shall be required by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly.
While delays in implementing the R-ARCSS continue to be there, with various reasons being cited, dialogue, engagements and knowing what should and can be done at various levels as far as reform and the implementation of the agreement is concerned is important and a part of the peace process.