South Sudan’s parliament have suspended debate on a $451 million budget as questions linger over how government agencies will be financed and how money was spent during the past fiscal year.
Oil production and other sources of revenue for the government have plunged since the start of the war between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his opponents led by Riek Machar in late 2013.
Members of Parliament refused to further discuss the 2017-18 budget after most members of the Cabinet failed to appear, making it impossible for MPs to question them.
Speaker Anthony Lino Makana, who called off the discussion, demanded that all ministers be present during the next session.
Last month, Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau presented an annual budget, but after further review, the parliament’s committee on finance proposed adding $141 million to the proposal.
Several lawmakers, including Maridi state’s Mary Nawai, asked why certain agencies were allocated tens of thousands of pounds despite not performing their duties or providing financial reports.
Nawai focused on the Ministry of Electricity and Dams, which was found to have overpaid its budget for wages by 49 percent.
“What were the activities that they used the budget for?” she asked. “We have not seen any sign in this country of electricity. What people are using are generators in their houses and solar? … We have not seen any construction going on or any dam. Why do we need to add money for the Ministry of Electricity?”
Economic analyst Marial Awou Yol said government institutions must be disciplined and use national resources for their intended purposes. Otherwise, he said, South Sudan will never recover from its economic crisis.
He said economists have been calling for a single treasury account system in which the Ministry of Finance controls the flow of money. Currently, he said, some government institutions have several banking accounts.
“You don’t know in which account they deposited money,” Awou said.