South Sudan MPs reject budget debate over pay

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By Radio Tamazuj

South Sudanese lawmakers on Thursday rejected the finance minister’s presentation of the 2019/2020 fiscal year budget over non-payment of salaries meant for civil servants.

The legislators tasked Finance Minister Salvatore Garang to explain why the country’s civil servants and soldiers have gone unpaid for nearly six months now.

 “There are concerns to be addressed first because people have gone unpaid in this country for nearly six months. They should pay the salaries before they bring the new budget,” said lawmaker Kuany Mayom.

Ahmed Mohamed Musa, another MP, said the finance ministry should ensure all civil servants are paid before the budget is passed.

Meanwhile, Abuk Payiti Ayiik said most cabinet members were absent during Thursday’s sitting, making it difficult for the country’s lawmakers to question why civil servants and soldiers are not getting salaries.

 “Even parliamentarians have gone unpaid for six months, that’s why Parliament is asking because oil production has resumed,” she said.

The deputy chairperson for MPs’ affairs, Mary Nyayom Lual said they are unhappy because civil servants and soldiers have not been paid for several months.

“Why should we pass another budget when our civil servants and soldiers protecting the country are not getting salaries?” she Lual.

“The ministers are busy with trips abroad every year. This is corruption. We want to know how oil revenues are managed in the country,” she added.

Dhoruai Mabor Teny, a legislator representing Western Lakes state said, “Cabinet is trying to joke with the parliament. I don’t know how the executive, headed by the president, thought of bringing the budget before MPs when they have not paid salaries for six months.”

He added, “And our message is very short, the financial bill will never be tabled before us until the arrears are paid.”

On his part, national assembly speaker, Anthony Lino Makana had to adjourn Thursday’s siting to next week.

Last week, the Council of Minister passed a proposed draft budget of 208.156 billion SSP, with allocation of 57% for capital expenditures.

South Sudan currently pumps about 175,000 barrels per day of crude oil.

Last month, the Commissioner General of South Sudan Revenue Authority revealed that they collect nearly 4 billion SSP every month.

Cabinet reacts

Speaking to reporters after the cabinet meeting on Friday, Information Minister Michael Makuei said the parliament should not block the finance minister from presenting the budget.

“The minister had his own plans but was not even given the opportunity to respond as to how he is planning to pay the arrears,” he said.

“But it seems there are other issues involved because people decided to go beyond this situation which is not required,” he added.

When asked about the government’s position on what happened in the parliament, Makuei said: “The position of the government is that the budget will be presented and the minister of finance should be given the opportunity to respond.”

“How will the government operate without the budget? This is what I am failing to understand, so it is the parliamentarians to give us the way forward,” he added.

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