JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — South Sudanese lawmakers on Tuesday rejected President Salva Kiir's nominee for justice minister by a vote of 150 to 97, citing misgivings about whether Telar Ring Deng overstepped his authority while serving as presidential advisor on legal affairs.
"Parliament decided to reject the appointed minister of justice on the grounds that there have been concerns and controversies in his name," said Joseph Ngere Paciko, who sat on the 11-person committee that was originally tasked with vetting Deng’s appointment.
Deng's rejection marked the first time Parliament has failed to approve a presidential nominee, Paciko said.
The vetting committee opted to let parliament vote on whether Deng should become justice minister after members of the committee voiced concern over the integrity of the president's nominee for the key cabinet post.
According to reports, Deng earlier this year encouraged the Bank of South Sudan to purchase land from a private businessman for $6 million.
The deal did not go through, but the vetting committee questioned whether Deng had the authority to authorize such a transaction in the first place.
Paciko said there are few details available about the proposed transaction, and bank officials have refused to provide information on it. Deng himself did not respond to several requests for comment from VOA.
Paciko said the vetting and voting processes that, in the end, rejected Deng were fair.
“There may be a lot of rumors coming out -- maybe he was targeted -- but I don't think there is an interest among members -- majority members, 150 members -- to target one person," he said, adding that Kiir would have to choose a new nominee for the post.
Kiir fired his entire cabinet, including Vice President Riek Machar, last month without explanation. He also reduced the number of ministries from 29 to 21, but added 12 deputy ministers.
Kiir has so far nominated 20 ministers and 12 deputy ministers to fill the cabinet posts. Parliament has approved all of the other nominees.
Deng's failure to be approved for the post should be taken by future cabinet nominees as a warning that lawmakers and vetting committees intend to closely examine the backgrounds and qualifications of all candidates for top government posts, Paciko said.
Parliament on Tuesday approved Rachael Nyadak Paul as deputy minister of information after the vote on her appointment had been delayed because she had not given the vetting committee enough information about her qualifications for the job.