Wednesday, April 07, 2021

South Sudan Corruption


“Every time there is a crisis, the government ignores its citizens, relies on international aid, (and) doesn’t help its own people,” said Edmund Yakani, head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, or CEPO, a civil society group in South Sudan.

The European Union, the United States and the World Bank has provided more than $100m for the COVID-19 response, while the International Monetary Fund has given some $200m in loans. 

“The wealth of this country – from oil and elsewhere – bypasses its people, siphoned off in secrecy with no public accountability for how it is spent,” said David Shearer, the United Nations’ head of mission in South Sudan, in his final address to the UN Security Council in March. The international community, he noted, had failed to question its role in South Sudan’s continuing dependence on foreign aid.

A black market appeared for COVID-19 tests that were supposed to be free. Tests were offered for $50, while test certificates needed for ground and air travel were sold for $400. 

In January, the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, released a worrying report (PDF), detailing an overview of South Sudan’s bleak humanitarian situation. Opaque bureaucratic and regulatory snags had also resulted in “diverted resources that would have otherwise been used for lifesaving supplies”, the report noted.

The health ministry also handpicked at least 500 largely untrained staff from the ministry to work on the response and be paid between $450 and $1,500 a month with donor funds. Although it is not uncommon to hire untrained workers in emergency responses many of the proposed salaries were triple what skilled civil servants would normally earn, and the government has failed in recent years to pay health workers for months.

Donors have largely provided most of South Sudan’s healthcare funding for years. Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) alone spent more than 85 million euros ($100m) on health across 19 locations in the country in 2019. In the 2019-2020 budget (PDF), South Sudan’s government allocated nearly $14m to the health ministry, but a separate government report (PDF) detailing official expenditures shows that only $3m of that had been received nine months into the fiscal year.

After the pandemic struck, South Sudan allocated $5.48m for the response from April 1 through September 30, 2020, according to government documents shared with reporters by a government official who asked not to be named. 

Of those funds, $3.8m in contracts was awarded to a South Sudanese company with Lebanese and South Sudanese shareholders, AFK Concept Ltd. As part of pandemic preparations, the company was meant to renovate the Dr John Garang Infectious Disease Center in Juba. Part of that amount included $22,500 for landscaping and $168,000 for painting – costs nearly double those of other companies reporters contacted for estimates of similar work. The 250-bed facility was meant to be the main hospital for COVID-19 patients. As of April 2021, however, it was still being used largely for storage. Hospital staff told reporters although renovations had been made, the work failed to meet the needs of an infectious disease centre, including too few toilets and structures that were inadequate to quarantine infected patients. An inflated contract awarded to a company to renovate a hospital that still sits empty.

And the government authorised one small outfit to produce hand sanitiser. The Drug and Food Control Authority gave Sinco Medical the authorisation to manufacture and distribute the sanitiser – while banning imports of the product as people scrambled to find supplies. In March 2020, the Drug and Food Control Authority told a businessman and his colleagues they would not be allowed to import 100,000 bottles of hand sanitiser from Kenya but instead had to buy from Sinco. People across the country struggled to find sanitiser months after coronavirus cases started to emerge. Prices had soared more than tenfold, according to a May report by the Sudd Institute, a local think-tank that has researched the economic consequences of COVID-19.

Corruption claims spark new concerns about aid to South Sudan | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

No comments: