WASHINGTON - VOA's Nabeel Biajo spoke with South Sudan's information minister and government spokesperson Michael Makuei about The Sentry's latest report on South Sudan.
The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: The Sentry report released Wednesday accuses South Sudanese leaders of participating in a massive credit scam that robbed the country of nearly $1 billion which was meant for importing food, fuel, and medicine. What is your response?
Makuei: That is an unsubstantiated report. It’s a biased report and we know the position of The Sentry: they are anti-government of South Sudan and we know very well that they are the ones working for regime change, which they have failed to make happen. It’s unfortunate that they are charging the government of South Sudan.
The money in the first place was the money of the Qatar National Bank; it was not the money of the government of South Sudan, and it was given to individuals. Those individuals, if they have not refunded the money, then it’s the duty of the Qatar National Bank to take them to court. But they are not seeing all this. Their eyes are only focused on how best to tarnish the image of the government of South Sudan.
VOA: The report says much of the money ended up in Kenya, Uganda and Dubai split among the elites — those who were involved in the credit scam.
Makuei: Well, even if it ended there, it ended in the hands of individuals who were businesspeople and who were given those letters of credit, not the government of South Sudan. This is not an honest approach.
VOA: You are saying the money borrowed from Qatar National Bank between 2012 and 2015 ($993 million) was given to individuals — to traders and businessmen not the government of South Sudan?
VOA: The Sentry report implicates the highest office in South Sudan — that's the office of President Salva Kiir and his family as well as his in-laws and the families of the former governor of Central Bank, Kornelio Koriom, military generals and others.
Makuei: This is the same as the last report. There’s nothing new. This is a clearly biased report that they, all the time, create because they believe by doing so, by tarnishing the image of the government of South Sudan, they will be in a position to achieve their unhealthy and unacceptable policy of regime change.
VOA: But there have been several corruption scandals in South Sudan since its independence. We had the Dara Saga for example, and what we're talking about today — the letters of credit scandal among others. What has the government done to strengthen accountability for public spending and transparency to prevent corruption from happening?
Makuei: There was established a long time ago an Anti-Corruption Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission is doing its job. Whatever corruption there is, goes to the court.
VOA: Has anyone been brought to account, been presented in court for corruption?
Makuei: Why don't you ask the Anti-Corruption Commission how far they have gone with their cases of corruption?