10 Dec 2018

 

Gen. Paul Malong Lied About Over 9 Million SSP Allegedly Stolen In 2014

"For the last four years now, we have remained the subjects of ridicule in the community and over social media. Scathing personal attacks have continued unabated by misinformed members of public who still believe that our years of silence, over this matter, were a testimony of our guilt".

Gen. Paul Malong Lied About Over 9 Million SSP Allegedly Stolen In 2014
Gen. Paul Malong [Photo File]
By Garang Kuot Kuot
 
It has been four years since one of the most dramatized and widely reported cases of alleged financial mismanagement of millions of South Sudanese Pounds in former Northern Barh El Ghazal State surfaced, both on print and electronic media.
 
However, seeking a redress for an injustice or a wrong done is not time-bound, every time is the right time for such an important pursuit as long as circumstances permit. In this regard, therefore, I am hereby providing my first ever public statement on the matter that was and continues to torture and haunt the emotional and psychological state of the victims and their families.
 
For the last four years now, we have remained the subjects of ridicule in the community and over social media. Scathing personal attacks have continued unabated by misinformed members of public who still believe that our years of silence, over this matter, were a testimony of our guilt. This painful situation can`t continue on forever, another side of the story has got to be told and this is the whole purpose of this article. Additionally, telling the true account of this story is the only way the pain in the hearts of those who were falsely victimized can be healed.
 
Due to its length and for the purpose of readability, I have broken down this article into three parts: - Part One: The Genesis of the Crisis; Part Two: The Big Plan; Part Three: National Committee Report, Hong Panda Scandal and Conclusion.
 
This public statement is about a very big case which was and continues to be an issue of public interest. Thus, it was difficult for me to narrate it in a few paragraphs.
 
Since the case in question is about public resources, I would like to encourage members of the public, particularly citizens of Aweil, who were fed with government fabricated side of this story, to take their time and read this article. Let me also emphasis that this statement is strictly limited to the false case involving an alleged embezzlement of millions of State funds in NBGS in 2014. I have stated nothing but facts and Gen. Paul Malong Awan is at liberty to dispute any of these facts, including the scandal of his company, Hong Panda.
 
Part One: THE GENESIS OF THE CRISIS In April 2012, the government of the Republic of South Sudan initiated and started implementing austerity measures. This followed the shutdown of oil production in January that year. All government intuitions and States were forthwith advised to cut down on their expenditures and devise ways to increase non-oil revenues by improving taxes collection mechanisms.
 
The effects of austerity measures were quick and serious on States as grants were reduced by the national government. Northern Bahr El Ghazal was not spared from this financial difficulties.
 
Gen. Paul Malong Awan was the Governor and Ronald Ruay Deng was the Minister of Finance. The austerity measures began to bite hard on government institutions.
 
However, Northern Bahr El Ghazal continued operating at a pre-austerity level, effectively making it difficult to sustain the situation. As an attempt to supplement the austerity budget, Hon. Ronald Ruay negotiated an overdraft arrangement with Ivory Bank. The Bank granted an overdraft arrangement of 1.000.000 South Sudanese Pounds a month.
 
But this was just a drop in the sea, expenditures remained way higher than revenues and so the Ministry of Finance resorted to borrowing money from traders to meet pressing government operations such as purchase of fuel, vehicles servicing and vehicles spare parts, travel allowances, medical costs, post service allowances, just to name but a few. Consequently, the State started incurring a deficit in its austerity budget.
 
However, Hon. Ronald Ruay was removed from the Ministry of Finance and Mulana Madut Santino was decreed in, on July 6, 2012. However, the situation only continued to worsen. The deficit steadily widened and started eating up the State grant. The borrowing scheme to cover the budget gap was organized in such a way that each money lender, including Ivory Bank and traders, were issued government post-dated cheques cashable in the subsequent month. The prevailing interest rate in the market at the time was 25% except for Ivory Bank whose interest rate was 3%. It meant that, if the government borrowed 1.000.000 SSP from a trader, it paid back 1,250.000 SSP to the lender.
 
As months passed by, it became increasingly clear that the deficit would soon surpass the State grant thereby pushing the State to a situation of bankruptcy.
 
Efforts To Manage The Worsening Financial Crisis: The trend started worrying everyone, particularly Governor Paul Malong and Minister of Finance, Hon. Madut Santino. As a result, the government started making efforts aimed at securing a financial bail package to get the State out of its financial crisis. The following initiatives were undertaken in this regard:
 
Loan Application with KCB:
 The government contacted and initiated discussions with the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) over the matter. The KCB was asked to provide a loan of ten million (10,000,000) South Sudanese Pounds to the State, which would be paid back through instalment for a duration of three to five years at a reasonable bank interest rate. The KCB accepted the request but gave tough conditions. In order for the loan to be processed, the State had to start transferring its monthly grant from Juba to Aweil through their account in KCB.
 
Secondly, the State was required to maintain a minimum balance of 500,000 SSP in its KCB account for a period of three months after which the loan would be processed for the State. The last condition was difficult for the State since the financial situation was already extremely dire.
 
Although the Director General, Mr. Sabrino Majok, was directed to start this process with the KCB, this loan application was cancelled by the government.
 
Loan Application with National Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning: When the efforts to acquire loans from the KCB failed, then Governor Paul Malong directed the Minister of Finance to apply for a loan package with the National Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in Juba. Hon. Madut Santino consequently wrote a letter to National Minister of Finance asking him for a financial package which would be deducted, on monthly basis, from State grant. This loan application also failed because the National Ministry of Finance was also battling a growing deficit of its own.
 
Letter to the President: As a last resort, Governor Paul Malong himself wrote an appeal letter to the President for an urgent intervention to get the State out of its worsening economic crisis. This appeal letter was written and submitted to the President in September 2013 when he visited Northern Bahr El Ghazal State. The President Salva Kiir made a reference to this letter during his public speech at Aweil Freedom Square where he said that he was aware of the dire financial condition all the States were going through and that the National Government was doing everything to turn the situation around.
 
Again, no financial package was approved by the President because the national government was obviously dealing with a wide range of problems caused by austerity measures.
 
I cited the above financial bailout efforts, which were attempted by the State government, to underscore the fact that the growing deficit in Northern Bahr El Ghazal was no secret to anyone. Governor Paul Malong himself, after realizing the dire economic situation of the State shifted in and gave the State a loan of two (2) million SSP through his Hong Panda Company. I will come back to Hong Panda loan in part three of this article.
 
Just as a matter of example in order to give the public a feel of what the State was really going through, I quote one of many letters, Director General, Sabrino Majok Majok wrote to the Minister of Finance on this matter:
 
“Dear Hon. Minister, …the amount of postdated cheques issued against months of April, May and July 2013 was 3,450,000 SSP, 4,424,043 SSP, and 5,750,741 SSP, respectively. Secondly, amount of postdated cheques issued against August grant is 5,041,250 SSP. At this high rate, therefore, the future amount from postdated cheques against September grant can be projected almost to 6,000,000 SSP which will leave only 3,500,000 SSP from a monthly grant from Juba to fund NBGS cash requirement of approximately 9.2 million.
 
Since interest rates from local creditors have proven unsustainable given our financial situation, the Ministry of Finance should devise ways to eliminate the deficit once and for all…”
 
This letter went on to provide possible options the Ministry of Finance could undertake to eliminate the growing deficit. If the situation could be like this in September as seen in Mr. Sabrino`s letter to the Minister, then the December 2013 situation doesn`t require a rocket scientist to gauge how it could look like in terms of deficit. After the State failed to obtain any financial bailout package on every attempt it made, it started heading for a total financial collapse.
 
By December 2013, the deficit had finally surpassed the State grant. It, therefore, meant that the December grant which was transferred to the State in January, 2014, was entirely withdrawn by creditors who had been issued post-dated cheques in November leaving a government account at Ivory empty.
 
As a result of this situation, the Minister of Finance, Hon. Madut Santino convened an urgent meeting with his senior Directors, including Sabrino Majok Majok, the then Director General, to discuss how to deal with the crisis.
 
I should also note that by this time the 2013 conflict had already broken out in Juba. Gen. Paul Malong was caught up in Juba by the widening conflict. Deputy Governor, Maj. Gen. (Ret), Salva Chol Ayat, was in Egypt on medical leave. Hon. Lino Adub Achier, the then Minister of Local Government, was the Acting Governor. In that crisis meeting, senior directors at the Ministry of Finance advised Hon. Madut Santino to take the matter to the Council of Ministers so that the Cabinet could make decision on a possible way forward.
 
Their recommendation was that December 2013 salaries should not be paid because borrowing more loans would mean that January 2014 grant would be way too small to pay back the loan.
 
However, Hon. Madut Santino rejected that advice by telling his directors that Gen. Malong did not want the matter to be tabled at Council of Ministers. He ordered that money had to be borrowed so that salaries were paid and that he and Governor Malong would find a way to pay back the loans.
 
To that effect, Hon. Madut Santino invited businessmen and traders for an urgent meeting in his office. In that meeting, he appealed to them to avail loans to the State so that the State could pay salaries.
 
Some of them refused to give loans to the government for fear that government might not be able to pay back their loans, given growing deficit, but some agreed and gave loans. The entire loans given to the government in that month did not cover the entire cash requirement to enable the government to pay its entire workforce.
 
The Ministry of Education, which had the biggest budget of about 1.7 million SSP, was not paid because the ministry of Finance did not succeed in obtaining the loan amount it needed to cover salary requirement for the whole State.
 
Hon. Madut Santino then flew to Juba for consultation with Gen. Paul Malong on what could be done since the deficit had then consumed the entire State grant. Soon after the rest of the Ministries and other institutions of the State government were paid, Education staff and teachers threatened to go on demonstrations unless their salaries were paid immediately. Hon. Madut Santino had gone to Juba at this time.
 
In order to manage the crisis, Hon. Lino Adub Achier, then Acting Governor, invited the following people to his office to discuss the matter: 1. Hon. Joseph Akok Aleu … Security Advisor 2. Hon. Bol Tong Tong … Minister of Public Service and Human Resource Development 3. Mr. Garang Kuot Kuot … Secretary General 4. Mr. Sabrino Majok Majok … Director General, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 5. Mr. Ajonga Deng Uguec … Director General, Ministry of Education 6. The representative of Workers Union 7. The representative of Teachers Union.
 
In the meeting, Mr. DG, Sabrino Majok Majok told us, point blank, that the Ministry of Finance had no capacity to raise additional funds to pay the Ministry of Education staff and teachers. As a temporal measure to thwart planned demonstrations, we all agreed that the Ministry of Education should be issued a post-dated cheque so that its December salaries could be paid from January 2014 grant. The Director General of the Ministry of Education, Head of Teachers Union and Head of Workers Union were given the responsibility of explaining the financial situation of the State to employees of the Ministry of Education and to also inform them that their post-dated cheque was already issued and would be cashed against January so that their December salary was paid.
 
The lack of payment of salaries for the Ministry of education would later be twisted by interest groups who advanced a narrative that salaries of the Ministry of Education were stolen by government officials who were in prison and this blatant lie was taken up media which took the smear campaign against us to new heights.
 
Part Two: THE BIG PLAN: Find Scapegoats and Crucify Them. Gen. Paul Malong was already aware that the State was headed for an imminent financial crash and he had conceived an ingenious plan. When he finally learned that the deficit had finally surpassed the State monthly grant, it was time for him to put his last card into execution. His plan was simple yet quite sophisticated for an average mind to understand: renamed the whole deficit as stolen funds, put that dirt on senior government officials to make it look real, suspend and arrest those senior officials and in the midst of that ensuring confusion, dishonor all post-dated cheques cashable against January 2014 grant, create a state of terror with the explicit threat of mass arrest of creditors and dismissal of government employees. It was such a genius plan that would affect the would-be victims to this day.
 
So, on February 14th, 2014 Gen. Paul Malong came back to Aweil and proceeded to Aweil Freedom (Square?) where we had organized a huge reception rally for him. He announced to the delightful yet unsuspecting citizens of Aweil that he had been away for so long from State and that a lot of “weeds” had grown in his absence. He went on to inform the cheering public that he would immediately clean up the bad weeds in the State. But before concluding the day, he detonated the real bomb by announcing that he would find and punish those who stole people`s money and he would bring them to Freedom Square for all to see.
The day ended, I was still oblivious of what was in store for me and my colleagues.
 
But, just to underscore the shrewdness of Gen. Paul Malong, when he was briefed in Juba by Hon. Madut Santino on financial collapsed of the State and inability by the State to pay employees of the Ministry of Education; he tactically gave Hon. Madut Santino a permission to seek medical attention in Egypt without telling him what he had planned to do over the matter. This reasoning was intelligible; his plan to find scapegoats and crucify them would not have worked well if the Minister of Finance was around because people would then be wondering why the Minister was not being questioned if there were financial irregularities.
 
Indeed, on Friday, February 14, during a Council of Ministers' briefing, which I attended before I was asked to leave the room by General Malong, several ministers urged Gen. Malong Awan to ask the Minister of Finance, Hon. Madut Santino to return to the State so that he could make a presentation on the financial situation of the State before any decision was taken against any perceived culprits who stole millions of public funds.
 
But Gen. Malong rejected the suggestion, saying that he would deal with Hon. Madut Santino in his own way. I must also add another dimension here that, by the time he came back to Aweil, Gen. Malong already knew that he would be going to Bilpam to assume his new role as Army Chief of General Staff of the SPLA and he was therefore wary of what his predecessor, Hon. Kuel Aguer Kuel, would find in place. He never wanted his predecessor to find a bankrupt State which would have looked very bad on him. Hence, there was urgency for implementation of the big plan.
 
Following his public address, where he made those serious public statements, it was time for Gen. Paul Malong to make good of his pronouncements. 14 of us were suspended on Monday, February 17th, 2014. On the same day, Gen. Paul Malong wrote a letter to all banks ordering them not to cash any government post-dated cheque without a written authorization from his (Governor`s) office.
 
With that, only one conspicuous company was exempted from this order: his personal company, Hong Panda, which was allowed to continue cashing its post-dated cheques.
 
Ironically, Hong Panda continued cashing its postdated cheques through Ivory Bank which also had post-dated cheques yet it was barred from cashing them by Gen. Malong’s order.
 
The immediate victim in Ivory Bank was the Aweil Branch manager, Mr. Raffael Apui (sp), who was suspended by Ivory Bank Management for approving loans to the government, which ended up dishonoring its commitment to pay.
 
Two days later, February 19th, 2014, we were rounded up by a joint force of police and national security. Now we were State number one thieves. Gen. Paul Malong`s plan had succeeded: he had people to blame for State financial collapse in custody and his government got away with the entire State debt following his letter that ordered banks not to cash any cheque without his office’s authorization.
 
Out of the blue, the State of Northern Bahr El Ghazal was suddenly debt free, all the dirt had been taken away by the sacrificial lambs who were then languishing in prison. Consequently, starting with January 2014 grant, the salaries continued to be paid normally because the State had no debt to pay. It was quite paradoxical situation, to say the least. The post post-dated cheques were now nothing more than mere papers and they were soon expiring.
 
The entire deficit was then being reported nationally and internationally as stolen funds by those in prison and they would have to pay it back to government coffers or they would rot in prison for the rest of their lives. Gen. Paul Malong made sure that the government narrative of stolen millions of public funds was effectively and adequately disseminated to citizens of Northern Bahr El Ghazal and the people of South Sudan.
 
Some Ministers with vested interest took up the responsibility to promote and propagate the narrative not only through electronic and print media such as local radios, newspapers, and television but also in Churches. Sunday services were turned into propaganda campaign platforms where congregations were deceitfully informed by Ministers that State number one thieves had been arrested and the government would no longer have any financial problems.
 
During one Sunday service where a Hon. Minister was excitedly narrating, to the congregation of St. George Catholic Church in Aweil, the news of imprisoned thieves, one no-nonsense Catholic Priest told the Minister, in his face, that suspects were proven guilty in the court of law and not by the government. It was a nice spat on the Minister’s face. Indeed, many people were still conscious enough to know that something wasn’t right in the entire episode.
 
On his part, Gen. Paul Malong was obviously laughing, amused, with himself at his ingenious yet deceitful plan which appeared to be working quite perfectly.
 
Soon after our suspension and imprisonment, the Acting Secretary General, Mr. Clement Manyuat, then Director General of Ministry of Local Government, was asked by Gen. Paul Malong to open a criminal case against us, which he faithfully did. Unfortunately, Mr. Clement Manyuat was not able to explain how the over 9 million SSP was stolen. He was asked by a police investigator, Bol Thomas, to bring three witnesses to give their statements. But Mr. Clement Manyuat failed to present even one witness because the whole ministry of finance knew that there was no theft that took place and so no one volunteered to be a witness in the case.
 
Gen. Paul Malong was then advised by his government legal team (State Legal Administration), that the case was too weak and it would be thrown out in the court if it were to be taken there. Heeding this advice, Gen. Malong reformed his plan; he formed a government Investigation Committee, headed by none other than Hon. Lino Adub Achier, the very person who chaired a crisis meeting regarding lack of salaries for State Ministry of education in January 2014. The committee`s mandate was to find financial irregularities that would amount to embezzlement so the government could comfortably pursue the case. We were just like sheep tethered on a wooden peg while the butcher looks around for slaughter knife. The government was now trying to find a reason for our arrest through its committee.
 
Indeed, Gen. Malong then tasked Hon. Lino Adub’s committee to investigate all financial files from July 2012 to December 2013. The case of over 9 million was essentially abandoned; the government was doing everything possible, through its committee, to find a reason for our arrest.
 
After investigating the financial files from July 2012 to December 2013, Hon. Lino Adub`s committee found no evidence of theft and the committee presented this “unwanted” finding to Gen. Malong. After receiving this report from Lino’s committee, the Investigation Committee was then asked to calculate the entire interests each businessman, trader and banks had previously received on top of their principal loans during the months or years under investigation and each would be required to refund the interests back to the government. The calculation was made and every creditor who previously gave loans to the government was asked to pay the interest back to the government. It sounds inconceivable but that is what exactly happened. I don’t know where else on the planet a situation like this is feasible: where someone gave you a loan, you paid back with interest as per loan agreement and then you turn around and demand the same person to return the interest.
 
The order to repay the interests was flatly rejected by traders and other business entities and vowed to face the government in the court of law over the matter. In order to send a strong warning signal to every other creditor that failure to pay back the interests would result in him or her being arrested, the government arrested three more people namely, Agany Angok, Garang Achan Achan and Mangok Baak and the three were thrown into police custody.
 
This was part of a bigger strategy to create a situation of terror to intimidate creditors that government meant business and they had nowhere to turn for help. But those who were already in prison with us would not get out until they paid back the interests to the government.
 
Lino Adup`s committee place on me a “ransom” amount of 1.5 million SSP. I was told to pay this amount for my bail and if I fail to pay, I would rot in prison for the rest of my life. No one told me where this figure came from. Abraham Garang Garang, then Deputy Director of Accounts had the same “ransom” amount of 1.5 million SSP placed on his head.
 
The committee did not recommend any bail amounts for Director General, Mr. Sabrino Majok, and Director of Accounts, Marko Dau Makuac, but they were to remain behind bars with us. No bail for them even if they were not required to pay anything.
 
It took the courage and intelligence of our defense Lawyer, Agok Makur, after defying all forms of intimidation and attempted bribery, to stand up to the brutality of State government, which had cowed everyone into accepting its narrative.
 
After failing to secure our bail from prison and after failing to persuade the Public Attorney to transfer our case to the court, Advocate, Agok Makur wrote a complain letter to the office of Prosecutor General in Juba, urging him to intervene in one of the most crooked cases in NBGS where the government had become both the prosecutor and the judge in direct contravention of established legal system in the country. The Prosecutor General responded by ordering the transfer of our case file to his office in Juba for review.
 
After he finally received our case file, following a long and frustrating battle between his office and State government which was reluctant to send the file, his office decided to reduce the bail amounts which had been placed on our heads by the government. For instance, the three of us (Abraham Garang, Valentino Makuc and I) who had over million bail amounts had our bails reduced to 100,000 South Sudanese Pounds each. He also ordered the formation of independent Investigation Committee by National Audit Chamber.
 
Part Three: REPORT OF NATIONAL INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE, HONG PANDA SCANDAL AND CONCLUSION The Report of Investigation Committee: After a lengthy wait, the independent Investigation Committee, led by Mr. Tombe Logale Lukak Legge, then Deputy Auditor General was finally formed by National Audit Chamber.
 
By this time, Hon. Kuel Aguer Kuel was the Caretaker Governor and he had rearrested me along with Abraham Garang Garang and Valentino Makuc Chan on the ground that we either paid the government committee bail amounts which it had placed on our heads or we rot in prison. This decision by Hon. Kuel’s government was done in violation of a decision already taken by the Prosecutor General where the said amounts were reduced.
 
The three of us, left with no choice, decided to patiently wait for the national Investigation Committee in prison. When the Investigation Committee finally came to Aweil, it conducted auditing and verification of financial files for a period under investigation (July 2012 – December 2013). The committee investigated and verified all the post-dated cheques which the government issued to all creditors, including banks and traders.
 
The Investigation Committee found that all post-date cheques were authentic and legitimately owned by creditors. The national Investigation Committee concluded that the government owed creditors a total loans amount of 11,360,725 SSP of which 8,455,380 SSP was a principal loan (physical money borrowed by the government) and 2,905,345 SSP was the interest of these loans.
 
The Investigation Committee, thus, recommended that the government had to pay the creditors, including those who were in prison with us, a principal amount of 8,455,380 SSP without interest of 2,905,345 SSP.
 
No evidence was found about the alleged embezzlement of over 9 millions of public funds in NBGS as previously claimed by the government. The entire case against the incriminated government officials, as I stated earlier, was fraudulently fabricated by Gen. Paul Malong in order for his government to get away with creditors money, which exactly happened.
 
My case was the most unique in the entire investigation. During the investigation, the committee didn`t understand why I was in custody. The government committee had made a file for everyone where information about the person was kept. On my file, the only piece of paper the national Investigation Committee found in it was a letter I had written to the management of Ivory Bank sometimes in December 2013.
 
By December 2013, everything had stopped functioning in NBGS; there was no power in every government institution such as Secretariat General, Ministry of Finance, which also accommodated the Acting Governor, Hospital etc., as there was no fuel for generators. Furthermore, there was no fuel for government vehicles including police patrol cars, everything was difficult and government employees used to sit under trees because the offices were hot and dark.
 
Ministry of Finance was having difficulty raising funds to purchase fuel. State grant for December, which would not have helped anyway, had not come; it only came in January 2014. The pressure was mounting on the Secretariat General, particularly on my office and the Ministry of Finance to address the situation quickly.
 
During that moment of heighten pressure, the Ministry of Finance asked my office to write to the Management of Ivory Bank, which was not willing to give any additional loan to Ministry of Finance at this time, to persuade the management to allocate a small loan to purchase fuel. I wrote to Ivory Bank management explaining the fuel crisis in the State and the urgent need for the government to raise funds in order to purchased fuel.
 
The Ivory Bank management responded positively to my letter and approved a loan of 80,000 SSP to the government. The entire process of that loan was followed up by the Ministry of Finance. I had no additional business with the rest of the process beyond writing the letter. The refund of that loan was a sole responsibility of the Ministry of Finance; my letter was only intended to persuade the bank to reconsider its refusal to provide an additional loan. Indeed, that money was received and staffs were dispatched to Majokyinthiou where they bought fuel that was used for much of December 2013 by various institutions of government.
 
The Ministry of Finance explained to the investigators the circumstances under which the letter was written and the case of that letter was laid to rest. So, that letter was the only piece of paper in my file, there was nothing about 1.5 million SSP which was still keeping me in prison.
 
When my turn came for questioning, the national Investigation Committee had nothing to ask me on and they instead turned to Hon. Lino Adub Achier, whom they had asked to be present during my questioning, to explain my connection with 1.5 million SSP. I was just sitting there listening to Hon. Lino Adub`s narrative.
 
Finding himself pressed against the wall, Hon. Lino Adub finally opened up and spoke bluntly. He told the Investigation Committee that my imprisonment had nothing to do with theft as the government needed no money from me. Hon. Lino went on to say that the amount of 1.5 million SSP was ordered by Gen. Paul Malong to be placed on my head as bail amount.
 
The shocked Investigation Committee members asked him why he accepted to have me kept in prison when he knew the truth and he was the head of government Investigation Committee and why didn’t he advised Gen. Malong against detaining me in prison on false ground. Mr. Lino Adub replied that if he had objected to my imprisonment, he would have gotten into a problem with Gen. Paul Malong, he added and these were his real words: “you don’t know how things are done in this State.”
 
I understood what he meant; NBGS under Gen. Paul Malong was a police state where brutality and rule of man (not rule of law) rein. As I listened to Hon. Lino Adub narrating what exactly transpired, I was wondering how to react to his revelation but I restrained myself and kept quiet.
 
Hon. Lino Adub was asked by the committee to process my release immediately; I got out of prison the same day through a verbal directive to police authorities at Machar Kunyiuk police station, no paper work or anything near it was done. The three of us were just told, you are released, go home.
 
It sounds today like a fairy tale but the entire case against me died just like that yet my name was already spoiled. The whole case of embezzled millions of public funds in NBGS was a classical forgery of the first order.
 
Unfortunately, despite the recommendation of the national Investigation Committee requiring the government to pay the principal loans of over eight millions SSP, the State government decided to drag its feet until Northern Bahr El Ghazal was petitioned into three States and the creditors were left in the vacuum with nowhere to go or no one to ask. To this day, the creditors are still languishing with expired post-dated cheques; their money has gone into a deep black hole, it is simply robbed – case closed.
 
Gen. Gen. Paul Malong`s plan to dishonor the cheques has worked. Nearly all these creditors have been reduced to a state of destitution. One of them, who had also been in prison with us, John Akot, has already succumbed to death. It is a situation one finds just hard to describe.
 
That is how the most proclaimed, highly publicised case of embezzlement of millions of public funds in NBGS was ended; the government, which falsely accused us of theft, turned out to be the defaulter when the investigation was concluded and this exactly explains why the government refused to take us to court.
 
The Hong Panda Scandal: For the starters, I decided to include an account of Hong Panda Company in this statement because it was implicated in the case in a number of ways. First of all, as part of defamation scheme, it was nationally and internationally reported, by Gurtong Trust, that the company was owned by me and that it was the company through which I allegedly looted public resources. Cheques numbers, purportedly cashed by me, were published along with the story as seen on the following link:
 
(http://www.gurtong.net/ECM/Editorial/tabid/124/ctl/ArticleView/mid/519/articleId/14942/category Id/137/Governor-Suspends-Top-Government-Officials-Over-SSP99m-Disappearance.aspx). Secondly, it was the only company which was exempted from an order barring other holders of post-dated cheques from cashing their cheques, a decision that caused a lot of outcry among creditors in 2014.
 
Finally, this company was involved in a scandalous act where it charged an abnormally high interest on its loans in violation of its loan agreement with the government. All these reasons make Hong Panda an integral part of the case and should, therefore, be included in this writing or future discussions.
 
As stated thus far, Gen. Paul Malong, through his Hong Panda Company, gave a loan of two (2) million South Sudanese Pounds. When Gen. Malong ordered banks not to cash any government issued post-dated cheques, Hong Panda Company was exempted from the order. This exemption was widely known and it caused a huge anger among other moneylenders who were wondering what was so special about this company which led to it being exempted. Hong Panda continued to cash its cheques while every creditor with a government post-dated cheque could only wait for a miracle to happen and it never happened; creditors are still waiting for someone to pay their money today.
 
However, the 2 million loans from Hong Panda, which was agreed at a 10% interest rate, turned out to be the most expensive loan ever borrowed. Hong Panda received an extravagant interest of 1,100,000 SSP on its principal loan of 2 million SSP. This extraordinary interest, when calculated in percentage terms, comes down to a staggering 55%, literally making it the most expensive black market interest rate of all times. The highest black market interest rate at the time was 25%.
 
The circumstances in NBGS at this time made it difficult for anyone to question this obvious scandal and Hong Panda Company, hence, continued to be paid at this wild interest rate while other creditors such as Ivory Bank, which only charged an interest of 3% on its loans, could not afford to cash its cheques.
 
Here, it is important to note that Gen. Paul Malong succeeded in three important things: (1) He put the entire dirt on us as sacrificial lambs so the government could get away with entire State debts of over eleven (11) million SSP received in form of loans from creditors, (2) He personally benefited from this state of misery where his Company received a clean 1,100,000 million SSP return on his principal loans of 2 million SSP, (3) He handed over the State to his predecessor “without” a debt.
 
But in reality and as per loan agreement entered into between the government of NBGS and Hong Panda Company, which was agreed at 10% interest rate, the lawful interest amount for Hong Panda Company was supposed to be 200,000 SSP only. The excess of 900,000 ($304,054 USD) SSP was unlawfully paid to Hong Panda.
 
Conclusion: To conclude this lengthy account, I would like to reiterate that Gen. Paul Malong is free to dispute any of the facts I have laid out in this writing. However, should he fail to dispute these facts, it would be advisable for him to first and foremost apologize to the people of Aweil over an oversight made during the payment of his Company’s loans. Secondly, his Hong Panda Company should reimburse or refund public money in the figure of 900,000 SSP ($304,054 USD - calculated at 2014 official exchange rate of 2.96 SSP per $1 USD), which was unlawfully paid to his company by the State.
 
The sum of USD $304,054 or its equivalent in South Sudanese currency at the prevailing rate, belongs to the people of Aweil and should, therefore, be refunded without debate. If the money is not refunded, the people of Aweil or their representatives reserve the right to sue Hong Panda Company in order to recover this public money.
 
As for the issue of unpaid loans of 8,455,380 SSP belonging to moneylenders which the Audit Committee recommended to be paid back to creditors, Gen. Paul Malong should take full personal responsibility for the failure to pay the creditors and he should find ways to pay the creditors himself. If he thinks he is not legally liable to pay this money, then the creditors legally entitled to sue him over his decision to order the dishonoring of their cheques despite objection from the Cabinet and Minister of Finance.
 
Indeed, the decision to dishonor post-dated cheques was a personal decision by Gen. Paul Malong taken without any legal or administrative basis and it, therefore, had nothing to do with the government of former NBGS. Gen. Malong deliberately defied Cabinet’s recommendation to allow Hon. Minister of Finance to present the financial situation of the State before any decision could be made.
 
Additionally, Gen. Malong refused to listen to Hon. Minister of Finance who consistently told him that there was no theft and that the post-dated cheques were legitimate and the holders deserved to be paid. Instead, he took a unilateral decision denying creditors their right to payment. He has to take the responsibility and do the right thing by paying the creditors.
 
Just to underscore the level with which Gen. Paul Malong defied all known logic and legality; the following guarantee letter was written by Hon. Minister of Finance and it was attached to every postdated cheque which committed the government to pay any creditor that availed loans to the government. This letter is a testimony that everything was legally done but Gen. Paul Malong won’t care about such legalities:
 
“Ref: SMPEP/NBGS/A/OM/1-A-1 Date: September 18th, 2013 Sub: Letter of Guarantee to refund the bearer of this document. This is to officially authorize the office of Director General to raise funds in order to supplement August grant. The said refund will be implemented against September grant, 2013. The office of Director General will specify amount borrowed from each person concerned and to issue this authorization letter together with postdated cheque and its transfer letter as well.
Thanks,
Hon. Madut Santino Deng State Minister of Finance and Economic Planning/NBGS/A CC: Director General/SMFEP CC: File”
Last but not least, those of us who were deliberately incarcerated, humiliated and subjected to an extreme amount of psychological, emotional and social torturing as well as causing massive material losses, will seek appropriate Legal Avenue to pursue justice and redress. After all, seeking justice and redress for a wrong done is not time-bound.
 

Garang Kuot Kuot is the former Secretary General of Former Northern Bahr El Ghazal State and author of a book: The Tears of Love. 

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