17th February 2020
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Gov’t illegally financially operating

Author: Daniel Danis | Published: 6 months ago

A weekly session of the Council of Ministers in Juba | Credit | Maal Maker

The government of South Sudan is operating without a fiscal budget over the last one month due to the delays by the national parliament to approve the 2019/2020 budget.

South Sudan’s Financial Year covers 12 months, which runs from 1st of July to 30th June each year.

The budget is expected by law to be submitted to the Assembly by not later than the 15th May of each financial year.

But the Minister of Finance presented the budget a month late on June 20th to angry parliamentarians who refused to debate the budget unless the Ministry of Finance paid off accrued arrears and over four months’ salaries to civil servants across the country.

The parliament again failed to debate and pass the budget to the next reading yesterday after some MPs criticized the committee on economics for failing to subject the budget to a public hearing as required by law.

The Public Financial Management and Accountability Act says that, in the event that the Assembly fails to pass the Budget within 45 days of submission to the Assembly, the President shall issue a Presidential Decree on the Budget for that year, and such Budget shall be deemed to have been passed by the Assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

But that has not happened.

Several senior government officials are engaged in official duties, including President Salva Kiir and VP James Wani Igga. On 2 July, Kiir, accompanied by a huge delegation from the ministries of foreign affairs and trade, traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, on border and trade between the two countries.

On the other hand, VP Wani was recently in Malakal and the surrounding areas to witness the ordination of the new bishop of Malakal.

President Salva Kiir is expected to travel to Beijing to attend the China-Africa Summit.

This means the current spending by government agencies are made without the authorization of the assembly, or through a decree by the President.

The Act says public spending shall be incurred only with the authority of the Assembly through the Appropriation bill, and no government expenditures shall be off-budget.

So far, the legislature has not approved any money set aside to continue running the government in the absence of this financial year’s budget.

Without such regulations, the law says spending agencies can manipulate expenditures, avoid procedures to control the management of public finances, and disregard accountability measures.

In response to this delay, the Chairperson of the Information Committee at the national parliament, Hon. Paul Yoane, says the government can rely on the Ministry of Finance and the Central bank to fund it until a new budget is approved.

“The government cannot operate financially in a vacuum, but through the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of South Sudan – they can probably get the amount needed to keep the machinery of the government running,” said Hon. Yoane.

“It is just a matter of time, within days, [and] the budget will be passed and all these will become issues of the past.”

But the constitution says all the revenue and expenditure of each level of government shall be on-budget operations and made public.

Government budgets are a principal channel of allocating financial resources and managing government expenditures to usher in economic growth and implement the development plans and programs in the country.

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