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JUBA CITY - 10 Jun 2024

Cabinet Affairs Minister Dr. Lomuro denies diverting peace funds to Kiir’s office

Cabinet Affairs Minister Dr. Martin Elia Lumuro addressed the press on Monday in Juba. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)
Cabinet Affairs Minister Dr. Martin Elia Lumuro addressed the press on Monday in Juba. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)

South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Dr. Martin Elia Lumuro on Monday denied reports that his ministry diverted part of USD 10 million earmarked for peace implementation institutions to special projects in the Office of the President and other purposes.

Last Thursday, while appearing before Parliament’s Committee on Public Accounts and Finance and Economic Planning, the embattled minister confirmed receipt of over SSP 15 billion meant for the peace mechanisms but admitted that some of the funds meant for the implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement were diverted to special projects in the president`s office among other expenditure.

The minister’s statement attracted a lot of public uproar and concerns about integrity in government expenditure.

According to the House’s report, the funds meant to be transferred to the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC), National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC), the National Human Rights Council (NHRC), and the Judicial Review Commission (JRC) were instead diverted to pay for peace activities involving a faction of the armed opposition National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka (USD 1.05 million), and Tut Gatluak Manime, the Presidential Advisor on National Security (USD 2 million) to facilitate implementation Phase II of the Security Arrangements and unspecified amount to 9BR Chambers, a London based law firm.

The legislators found out that the money was initially transferred by the Central Bank at the request of the Ministry of Finance to the account of the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs instead of the ministry’s main account.

However, while addressing a press conference in Juba on Monday, Dr. Lomuro lashed out at some media outlets for allegedly taking his statement out of context and urged them to report correctly to avoid confusing government institutions.

“It is important to listen and report accurately to avoid complication and avoid the sort of confusion within government institutions,” he charged. “The purpose of this press conference is to clear what was reported by some media houses, and especially Eye Radio. There is something called listen live. We are not avoiding journalists to interview us at all but when we are interviewed, we would like to be reflected correctly.”

The cabinet affairs minister clarified that the finance ministry intended to transfer the USD 10 million in question for implementation of the peace agreement which he received a copy of the letter on 2 April but that the money was unfortunately not remitted to the accounts of the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs,

“I would like to clarify this because there is a perception that USD 10 million was remitted to the cabinet affairs ministry and diverted. I even showed the [parliamentary] committee the account details for them to be able to see whether there was any money transferred to that account or diverted,” he stated. “I confirmed that the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs’ General Secretariat account received SSP 15 billion which I believe is an alternative to the USD 10 million. Again, it was intended for the implementation of key provisions of the agreement and special projects.”

Dr. Lomuro added: “As I speak now, payments to the concerned agreement institutions have been paid, so the JJRC has been paid, the NCAC has been paid and the payments for the NCRC and NHRC are being processed because we only received their accounts two days ago.”

He insisted that the peace agreement is being implemented and that it was decided by the executive that available funds be paid in installments because of the economic situation.

"So, the first installments for these institutions have been paid. There was some concern, some of the members of these institutions demanded full payment of their budgets and I have repeatedly told them that we made an executive decision to pay installments to allow these institutions to operate while the finance ministry organizes itself to raise another installment until the budgets for these institution are completed,” Dr. Lomuro explained. “My statement in some areas has been reported out of context. I did not say that the Office of the President is holding an account for payment of special projects. What I said and I meant is that the president like any president in the world, holds special files to address any issue in the country, and those special files are assigned to senior officials, advisors, ministers, etc.”

He said that he holds and is assigned a special file that contributes to the implementation of the peace agreement and payments for these special files are through a special project account in the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, not in the Office of the President.

“It should be clear, and I said this special file has been with me for the last two years and it comes to an end in September this year. The file is with me and the account is in the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, not the Office of the President,” he reiterated. “I showed the committee the account itself for them to know that indeed the account is with the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs.”