In the latest embezzlement scandal to hit the South Sudan government, President Salva Kiir has suspended two top aides amid a probe into a scam in which officials allegedly impersonated the president and got the Central Bank to pay them large sums of money.
Chief of Staff Mayen Wol Jong and Yel Luol Koor, the executive director in the president’s office, were suspended last week, shortly after security officer John Agou was apprehended for allegedly forging Mr. Kiir’s signature and using the presidential seal to request a payment of $1 million dollars from South Sudan’s Central Bank.
According to the Nation Mirror newspaper, Agou gave investigators the names of other officials who are alleged to have also used their privileges in Mr. Kiir’s office to embezzle funds.
Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny confirmed that Jong and Koor were suspended but said they have not been accused of anything.
“It is just to allow the investigation to take place. There is a probe... Someone was forging documents and he has implicated the executive director and the chief administrator. So the President did this in the interest of justice so that they are able to cooperate with the probe," Ateny said.
This is not the first time Jong and Koor have been suspended from the president’s office. In March 2013, Mr. Kiir suspended the same two officials and then controller of accounts at the presidency, Nhomuot Agoth Cithiik, after money went missing in an alleged burglary. Suspicions were raised because the door to the cash office was locked and intact after the so-called break-in. Agoth was eventually dismissed but Jong and Koor were reinstated in their jobs.
Left in the dark
Edmund Yakani, the executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) said the public was left in the dark as to why Jong and Koor got off scot-free the last time they were suspended and investigated. This time around, he said, the findings of the investigation into the missing funds and who was involved must be made public.
"If they are found innocent like last time, let us be informed about how they were found to be innocent and why they should be reinstated. Or, if they are linked to whatever is happening, then they are held accountable. For me, if you are fighting corruption and malpractice, suspension and reinstatement are not enough. The law must take its course,” Yakani said.
Large sums of money have gone missing from South Sudanese government coffers since indepedence in 2011.
In one of the most publicized cases of disappearing state funds, $4 billion vanished in 2012. At the time, Mr. Kiir wrote to 75 senior government officials, telling them that if they returned whatever money they took,they would not be prosecuted. $60 million were eventually returned – only 1.5 percent of what went missing.