By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi 27th/January/2022
As mixed reactions continue to flow since the reports of the passing by the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislation Assembly of the Bill which, once assent to and signed into by the President, will increase the salaries of the legislators to 800,000SSP ($2,000 ) and other financial benefits such as an entitlement for an MP for $50,000 car loan or its equivalent in local currency, the attention also need to go beyond seeking increase for other employees of the government, into the connections between such actions, and ensuring that parliament implements the reforms provided for in the R-ARCSS, including on transparency, accountable use of public resources and fighting corruption.
This Tuesday’s ranking of South Sudan as the most corrupt amongst the 180 countries in the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International (TI), though not shocking, is still a matter of great concern. TI defines corruption “as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”
Noting that countries experiencing armed conflict or authoritarianism tend to earn the lowest scores, TI writes, “Corruption undermines the ability of governments to guarantee the human rights of their citizens. This affects the delivery of public services, the dispensation of justice and the provision of safety for all. In particular, grand corruption committed by high-level officials usually combines the large-scale, transnational theft of public funds with gross human rights violations.”
Further, TI continues, “Our analysis shows that such corruption schemes – often facilitated by advanced economies who score well on the CPI – exacerbate repression by allowing autocrats to:
Enjoy looted funds. Employing complicit bankers, lawyers and real-estate brokers in major financial centres, the corrupt can store their illicit gains, reward cronies and further concentrate their power.
Launder their reputation abroad. By bribing foreign politicians and employing western public relations firms and lobbyists, authoritarian and kleptocratic regimes soften international pressure on their human rights record.
Evade accountability. Through the abuse of secret companies and anonymous investments, the corrupt can hide their wrongdoing from law enforcement or judicial bodies and escape consequences.”
Salary Increase, Reforms & Fighting Corruption
Though it is also acknowledged that the armed conflict in South Sudan can be partly blamed for some of the ongoing challenges, highlights have been made on the connections, on one hand–between low payments of government officials including civil servants and the Army in South Sudan, payments unable to meet market demands, and on the other– challenges to fighting corruption.
For example, when I hosted Dr Peter Biar Ajak on my Program last year, he said, “The system we have in South Sudan runs because of corruption. People are surviving because of corruption. And that is a deliberate decision so that then no one is able to fight corruption.”
At the moment, there are promises that Bills for increase of salaries of Civil Servants and Organized Forces will be tabled “soon” before the Parliament so that they “can cope with the current market demands.”
The increase of salaries and other benefits need to go far together with the reforms in the R-ARCSS, so that it not like the 2018 $40,000 each received the legislators, first announced as car loan and later said to be a gift, while others said it was for extending the term of the President in office. Also the issue of few elites unjustifiably controlling public money, limiting many officials to merely holding offices in theory and no finances to facilitate them deliver services must end.
As TI puts it, “Fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and access to justice guarantee public participation and keep corruption in check. The current wave of authoritarianism is not driven by coups and violence, but by gradual efforts to undermine democracy.
This usually begins with attacks on civil and political rights, efforts to undermine the autonomy of oversight and election bodies, and control of the media. Such attacks allow corrupt regimes to evade accountability and criticism, allowing corruption to flourish.”
South Sudanese must learn from others and reform.
Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist, is the author of the book Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan. Roger is also the Producer and Host of The Weekly Review: Making Sense of News and Relevant Topics