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USD 25,000 Parliament up in arms

By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon

The members of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly have defended the 25,000 dollars they received last week as lawful and there was nothing wrong about it.

Paul Yoane Bonju, the chairperson of the Information Committee at the TNLA admitted the receipt of USD 25,000 but said the money was budgeted in the Fiscal Year 2019/2020 in the National Budget for MPs.

Civil society earlier criticized the lawmakers and described the payment as unethical and contrary in its sense. The activist demanded an explanation.     

But in a press conference to clarify on the payment yesterday, Bonju said the payment was in accordance with the law justified in the country’s constitution instead of having been diverted.  

“Article 70 of the Transitional National Constitution, 2011as amended; provides for “Emoluments of members of the National Legislature that Members of the National Legislature or either of its two Houses shall be paid emoluments and provided with facilities as determined by the law,” he explained. 

Bonju revealed that the 40,000 dollars received by the legislators in 2018 as a car loan was part of the ongoing emoluments for the lawmakers.

“The administration of the National Legislature did not grab this money from somebody but from its own budget transparently,” Bonju said.

According to him, the members of the National Assembly were puzzled when the issue was picked up as a big issue against the parliament.

“We ask our nationals to understand that we represent them in this institution and we can’t do anything that harms our constituencies that we represent nor can we do something that brings bad names to them,” Bonju claimed.  

Gabriel Guot Guot, a member of Parliamentary Service Commission stated that the article under which the legislators received the money was signed into law on October 2010 by the President.

“These emoluments here are the rights, privileges and allowances that are given to the members. They are organized by the law, they are not just from the blue,” he said.

Guot added that the lawmakers were working according to the law citing that they could not be the law makers and do something which is contrary to the law.  

“Secondly, the National Assembly is a member of the regional parliaments; and we cannot do something which is contrary with the principles of the international and regional parliaments,” he said.

Rev. Scopas Taban Lokabang, member of committee of Petroleum, Energy and mining who represents war disabled, widows and orphans at the parliament said their emoluments were privileges which were supposed to be respected.

“If I am given then nobody is supposed to talk about it because it is a right for me at that particular time when I am still in active service in the political arena,” he said.

He stated that the MPs were supposed to be paid as monthly allowances and free medical treatment at the expense of the government during the tenure for law makers according to emoluments Act.

Edmund Yakani, Civil Society activist with Community Empowerment for Progress Organization insisted that the law makers were not completely supposed to receive that money when the insurance Act gives all the civil servant right to health insurance.

“The recent South Sudan Health Insurance Law and Act demand all the public officials a right to health insurance. Why only parliamentarians are entitled to 25,000 USD and not the civil servants and the honorable members at the State’ levels? he asked.

He questioned why even other law enforcement agencies like South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), the country army failed to get the offer instead of the MPs.  

Yakani said the money should still be justified to the public since the MPs justification is not convincing.  

“Why did they prioritize health insurance above financing the training of the unified forces? The money wasted as health insurance could have been a top priority to improve the demands of the security forces in the cantonment sites since they lack medical services, shelter and mosquito nets,” he quipped.

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