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Gov’t can pay civil servants monthly – ex-NRA chief

Authors: Emmanuel Akile | Kelly Abale | Published: November 19, 2019

A palatial home in Nairobi, Kenya, owned by a South Sudanese leader. Reports show that most top leaders have unexplained wealth in region, while citizens suffer | Credit | The Sentry

The non-oil revenues being collected monthly can help the government pay salaries and arrears of all civil servants in South Sudan, the former commissioner-general of the National Revenue Authority has said.

Government employees, especially the soldiers, police and teachers, are reportedly living in squalid conditions as the government continues to receive millions from oil and non-oil revenue.

A recent report by The Sentry showed that top government officials are amassing wealth through foreign businesspeople, whom they used as conduits to siphon money out of the country.

A foot soldier in South Sudan receives roughly 1,800 South Sudanese pounds or $6 per month.

It has now become a common occurrence for civil servants in South Sudan to go for 5 to 6 months without salaries despite harsh economic conditions.

The government has always complained that it lacks money to pay salaries or even fund the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.

But South Sudan receives about $5 million per day from the sale of crude oil in the international market.

Domestically, the government receives an estimated 5 million per month from the collection of non-oil revenue.

In August this year, the National Revenue Authority under a Ghanaian national, Dr. Olympio Attipoe announced the collection of 5 million dollars and another 1.5 billion South Sudanese Pounds.

The 1.5 billion pounds should have paid salaries of more than 800,000 soldiers.

That amount could have also cleared the salaries of 750,000 health workers, who receive about 2,000 pounds per month.

Between January and July 2019, the revenue authority collected $41 million and over 8 billion pounds.

The 8 billion pounds should have paid salaries of, say, four million soldiers, nearly half of South Sudan’s population.

According to the former commissioner-general, the government can use the non-oil revenue alone to pay for all salaries and services in the country, while the oil money is used for other developmental projects.

“The non-oil revenues can pay salary every month and pay all the operation costs, then the oil revenue will be there for other issues,” Dr. Attipoe told Eye Radio in an exclusive interview.

But he said corruption as a result of lack of transparency and accountability means millions are diverted into private accounts and lost through unscrupulous deals.

“It’s all about being efficient and transparent in what we do, the moment we are efficient and transparent we will be able to settle all these issues,” he argued.

Before his dismissal in August, Dr. Attipoe would public declare how much the revenue authority had collected.

He previously said the intention was to let the public know that their taxes are being channeled into the right accounts.

But last month, the Acting Commissioner General of the Revenue Authority said he will no longer be announcing the monthly collections.

Erjok Bullen claimed the announcement of monthly collection of non-oil revenue to the public is wrong, and that the funds belongs to the government – especially the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

Recently, members of national parliament threatened to impeach the finance minister over the unpaid salaries and failure to account for the past fiscal year budget.

President Kiir also blamed Salvatore Garang for failing to pay salaries of civil servants despite making several promises to clear the arrears.

Dr. Attipoe believes the non-oil revenues are collected from the public in order to provide them with the needed services, including salaries.

He stressed that the looting of public funds by the South Sudanese leaders will only continue to hurt the country and its people.

“Look, this country is for South Sudanese, whether you like it or not. You jump to Australia, you jump to DC, and you say you are having other passport, but they still see you as a South Sudanese,”

“You cannot go to other people’s countries and be glorifying yourself. You are not doing anybody any good; you are still a foreigner, and they will consider you so.

“So, the earlier people recognize that this is the only country you have, build and move this country forward the better; move this country forward from our selfish individual interests…for the betterment and for the future generation.”

During his 2019 Independence Day message, President Salva Kiir apologized to civil servants for the failure of his government to pay salaries on time.

The Sentry reports say army generals, including Kiir himself, have established companies that have monopolized some sectors related to the army.

It says current incentives favor extreme violence and grand corruption over peace and good governance in South Sudan.

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