Opinion: The shameful politics of hotel accommodation in South Sudan
By Peter Akoon Maluil
May 13, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – Back in 2005-2012 all South Sudanese; politicians, military generals, and civilians alike used to live in their own homes. By their own home I mean a place that provides both shelter and feeding — naturally we retreat to our homes after a hectic day’s hustle to get bread on the table for families.
Those were the days when our politics was decent. Nothing explains better the difference between then and now than taking a quick visit to the high ends hotels and lodging in the city of Juba. Hotels like Pyramid and Crown accommodates a swelling population — it is now estimated that 4 out of 5 people you will meet in these hotels are politicians (SPLM-IG, SPLM-IO, SSOA etc). Here you find all classes of politicians; senior politician (including military politicians), junior politicians down to the diehard sycophants — these luxurious hotels have become their official residences.
For example, two or three of the five Vice Presidents stay in hotels and have their offices in these hotels. One could be forgiven for thinking that street boys have infiltrated our political system
Where did the houses go?
One could be forgiven for thinking that our political system as been infiltrated by homeless persons. The number of politicians, military and security officers taking accommodation in hotels at the expense of the taxpayers cost is disheartening. Word on the street has it that it is the government that has encouraged this shameful trend. It uses accommodation as a political card to buy loyalty from comfort-loving Juba “politicians.”
It has even successfully tempted prominent politicians with real homes to abandoned them and opt to for free comfort.
This negative phenomenon has resulted in the massive waste of public moneys. Take the case where government owes Palm Africa Hotel a whooping 2 million U.S. dollars worth of accommodation for members of NPTC. Consider the helpful service this money would have brought to citizens if it was put to good use, such as building government housing system.
However, the most dangerous phenomenon is the continuous infinite infringement of the public treasury to fill a gap in their residence needs inside the hotel, all at the expense of taxpaying members of the public. During the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, most delegations lived in hotels, but their reasons are known at that time to the visible absence of residential estates in Juba, or others could be the lack of services such as running water and toilets .
It was thus logical for the majority of members and observers to resort to Hotels as a temporary residence for them, but the continuation of this approach after 15 years, despite the majority of politicians owning houses, is unanswered question.
Not long ago, the Pyramid Hotel confirmed the cost of accommodation for SPLM IO delegations and other parties, the partners of the agreement, which amounted to one million dollars. We would like to ask some questions, why do these politicians live in hotels despite having houses inside Juba? Isn’t this expensive cost better for the government to provide security for these politicians in their houses if the purpose of living in the hotel was due to security reasons?
As long as it is not in the interest of the state to pay all these sums as a deduction from the developmental agenda for some people who have alternatives to housing?
Those in charge of managing the government cupboard must think and think carefully because it is not in the interest of the people of South Sudan, who dreams of a state in which the most basic services are wasted in which public money is spent without mercy. Wasting public money and assaulting it in this manner is one of the most prominent forms of corruption that has raged in all corners of the country.
Today, corruption has become a transnational crime, with a very serious nature, as it poses problems and risks to the security and stability of the countries. The residence of government officials in hotels at the expenses of public treasury is not only a shameful political practice but it is also an economic crime deserving criminalization.
Until then this politics is too dry to make any meaningful impact for the progress of national development.
The author is a former minister of finance for Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state.
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