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Gov’t orders ex-officials out of its quarters after lawsuit against Dr Gai

Author : | Published: Monday, June 27, 2016

The Minister of Finance, David Deng Athorbei, is digging deep into the public coffers to pay bills for officials who have been living in hotels for years now, officials at the health ministry have said.

The bills accumulated for the accommodation of health minister Dr Riek Gai Kok, and other officials who have been lavishing at Regency Hotel in Juba since the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013.

However, some officials say Dr Riek Gai in fact had been in this hotel way back before the beginning of the conflict, perhaps since he moved to Juba from Khartoum after independence in 2011 and took up a ministerial position with the government.

But this has been out of the public domain until a fall-out recently with the hotel management.

The hotel became impatient with a client who seemingly had not been paying in cash and had not cleared the accumulated rental charges for years.

The undersecretary in the ministry of health, Dr Makur Matur, said the hotel sought redress in the court of law, leading to a summon of Dr Riek Gai to appear for a hearing on Thursday.

“What happens is the administration of Regency Hotel, through their lawyer, raised legal [action] against the person of the minister of health in claim of about 5-million hotel bill that accumulated over the years since crisis,” he said.

It wasn’t clear whether the minister met the deadline or not. But Dr Matur said suing the minister wasn’t the right legal procedure.

“What is worth noting here is that this bill was not incurred by the minister as person but he was doing his job as part of Crisis Management Committee that was installed in the aftermath of 2013 crisis,” Mr Makur said, referring to a government team that was formed after the outbreak of the conflict in 2011.

But after supervising the disbursement of salaries once, the committee was disbanded by the President.

Dr Matur insisted that his minister was not personally responsible for paying the bill, but should rather be footed by the government, through the Ministry of Finance.

The government and the minister of finance didn’t refuse to pay,” Mr Makur told the Eye.

“What happened was delay in payment,” he said, adding that “All the same, at the end of the day, they will have to be paid but of course also the payment is contingent upon the availability of funds and the ability of the ministry of finance to pay at this particular time.”

“But the good news is; already the ministry of finance in the personality of the minister honorable David Deng has taken over the case and they are dealing with it right now.”

The Manager of Regency Hotel declined to speak to the Eye on the issue. He advised Eye Radio to seek the comment from his legal advisor, who was not immediately available.

After this controversial suit, the government directed its former officials to vacate its quarters.

Information minister Michael Makuei Lueth said this would enable the government to reduce the cost of accommodating new ministers.

“It is found that there are some ministers who are still occupying government houses despite the fact that they were relieved long time ago,” Mr Makuei said after a regular Council of Ministers meeting on Friday.

“The ministry of cabinet affairs has been directed to ensure that those houses are vacated, so that the new ministers take over those accommodations.

“Instead of us hiring or maintaining them in the hotels and that is very costly, otherwise they will have been found an accommodation outside the hotels so that we can reduce the cost.”

It was not clear how many former officials are still staying in government buildings.


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