JUBA – The South Sudan National Audit Chamber (SSNAC) is calling on the revitalized unity government to establish an economic crimes court to prosecute corrupt officers involved in cases of Dura Saga and Letter of Credit.
In 2008, expecting a famine, the South Sudan government paid nearly $1 million, according to a 2013 report by the Voice of America, for cereals that were never delivered. This is known as the “Dura Saga,” after the South Sudanese name for sorghum, dura.
World Bank auditors found in February 2013 that 290 firms were paid without ever having signed a contract, and another 151 firms were overpaid significantly.
A criminal probe launched in the wake of this audit sought to ascertain why the contractors were paid for goods that never arrived, why the prices were so high, and if government officials were involved in the scandal. The probe was to be led by Prosecutor General Filberto Mayout Mareng.
A February 2012 report by the Sudan Tribune described the Dura Saga as the largest and most costly corruption scandal in South Sudan since the nation’s founding in 2005, and maintained that it involved the disappearance of not just one million but several billion dollars that had been allocated for the building and repair of grain stores and the purchase of grain.
Steven Wonder, Auditor General at National Audit Chamber, called for establishment of an economic court to punish government officials involved in misuse of public finance.
“Lets us establish an economic crime court because everybody in the country including the head of state complained loudly about corruption and misuse of money and abuse of power. Everybody has heard this. It is no longer a secret,” he said during a workshop of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee workshop in Juba on Monday..
Steven said the Audit Chamber expressed the chamber’s readiness to take people to court for crimes they have committed once they are identified.
“We in the Audit Chamber know auditing but there are certain things we are required because they are done presently that require a law enforcement agency instead of us,” he said.
The Auditor General stressed for establishment of an economic court because he believed the current court system deals in normal crimes and violence.
“We need this special court like what we have in gender based violence so that there is immediate action because justice delay is justice denied,” he said.
South Sudan has been ranked repeatedly by Transparency International as among the most corrupt countries in the world. It attributed the reasons to weak democratic foundation, and the manipulation of undemocratic and populist politicians who use it to their advantage.
In addition, a report conducted by the Sentry— an advocacy and investigation organization— last year showed top government officials as profiteers in the South Sudan conflict.