New report details competitive grand corruption underlying conflict
A new report published today by the Enough Project points to an intentional effort by South Sudan’s political elite to undermine state institutions in order to protect their corrupt extraction of national wealth and maintain power at any cost. As South Sudan’s tenuous peace agreement holds, the country faces a tipping point that could lead to a new outbreak of devastating armed conflict largely driven by competition between its leaders over the spoils of power.
The new report, “A Hope from Within? Countering the intentional destruction of governance and transparency in South Sudan,” by Enough’s Brian Adeba, offers some hope that existing institutions in the country, properly empowered, could support peace. While making critical recommendations to support transparency and anti-corruption efforts, the report reveals new details of widespread government corruption left unchecked as official investigations are sidelined or simply ignored.
Brian Adeba, report author and Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “Many government institutions, commissions, offices and staff in South Sudan are ready and willing to do their jobs, but are undermined every step of the way, underfunded and disempowered by leaders who have intentionally disintegrated state capacity for governance and transparency.”
Drawing on field research, the report shows that the weaknesses of governance institutions in South Sudan stem from deliberate efforts by elite politicians. The report reviews the weaknesses of three of South Sudan’s governance institutions most critical to establishing accountability: the Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Audit Chamber, and the Public Accounts Committee in the National Legislative Assembly. All three institutions face considerable operational challenges that have undercut their effectiveness in implementing their constitutional mandates.
Adeba added: “In the absence of accountability and transparency, South Sudan risks more cycles of chaos, conflict and mass atrocities fueled by corrupt leaders manipulating ethnic divisions and jockeying for the spoils of power. Reforming institutions of governance in South Sudan is imperative if the country is to avoid another war.”
Brad Brooks-Rubin, Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “In the midst of conflict and tragic human suffering, like we have seen far too often in South Sudan’s young history, it can be easy to look past the detailed work and commitment needed to build a transparent and accountable state that can truly function for its people. As demonstrated in the field work that underlies this report, however, failing to do so can contribute to disastrous results. Fortunately, the report also shows that South Sudan possesses the necessary legal and organizational infrastructure to enable meaningful change and create a state that can meet the expectations of its people, responsible investors, and the international community.”
Selected report highlights:
- “Because governance institutions work at the behest of elite politicians, it is in the interest of these politicians to disable these institutions and limit their ability to play their role in oversight, regulation, and providing checks and balances on other parts of the government.”
- “In 2015, the [Anti-Corruption Commission] completed a high-profile investigation involving the alleged misappropriation of $12 million earmarked for procurement of military supplies by officials at the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs and the national army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The case has been forwarded to the Ministry of Justice but there is little public information available about whether the ministry has taken further action regarding these serious allegations.”
- “Although the audits that the [National Audit Chamber] has produced show gross misappropriation of public funds, an insignificant number of people have been held accountable to date. As one interviewee said, ‘the government is just like a cow that is milked but not fed. All audits die somewhere.’”
- “Accountability was never built into the governance structure of the violent kleptocratic system that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) established in the aftermath of the 2005 peace deal that ended the 22-year north-south war. By nature, violent kleptocracies hijack governance institutions for the personal financial benefit of those within the ruling network and for the security of the regime. These kleptocracies use extreme violence, including mass atrocities, to maintain their hold on power. In this regard, South Sudan’s governance institutions were hijacked and the ability of these institutions to implement oversight functions was compromised. Wanton corruption by the political elite accelerated to unprecedented levels and further stymied the government’s ability to deliver services to the populace. In 2012, President Salva Kiir estimated that $4 billion was siphoned from the country’s coffers.”
Overview of report recommendations:
1. Fully fund and staff the agencies responsible for governance for long-term economic benefits
South Sudan’s governance institutions have the potential to counter corruption by promoting economic transparency and accountability. It is critical that the institutions that South Sudan already has in place be able to function properly. They need full budget allocations, sufficient staffing levels, and unobstructed authority to carry out their duties, including enforcement actions.
2. Boost civil society’s role in the public sphere
Governments and multilateral bodies that support good governance should intensify their advocacy to open and preserve political space for civil society in South Sudan. The government of South Sudan should also opt in to the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), which is the World Bank’s arm for providing support to civil society. Although assistance goes to civil society organizations, the government must first agree to the GPSA’s framework.
3. Tie external assistance to strict budget oversight
4. Develop additional mechanisms for donor coordination and evaluation of decision-making using international standards
In addition to donor insistence on the implementation of dual-key budgeting systems, the donor community must develop and adhere to a clear system for coordination on priorities and programs for South Sudan. Donor coordination is critical to ensuring that the government of South Sudan receives consistent messages and donors do not duplicate efforts or work at cross-purposes.
5. Support domestic enforcement and external accountability measures
Where domestic measures fail, the international community should use available tools to hold accountable the actors who are undermining progress. The United States, for instance, should use authorities of the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to investigate the ways that the proceeds of corruption are laundered out of South Sudan, whether to neighboring countries or beyond. Most financial transactions in this context involve the use of U.S. dollars. When U.S. dollars move through the international financial system, they eventually pass through the United States, giving the U.S. government jurisdiction to take action, particularly when these dollars are believed to be the proceeds of criminal activity.
About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.