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Cablegate: Goss Freezes Ministry Salaries in Accountability Move

VZCZCXRO8070
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1295/01 2381509
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 251509Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1719
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001295

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM EAID SU
SUBJECT: GOSS FREEZES MINISTRY SALARIES IN ACCOUNTABILITY MOVE

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Government of Southern Sudan's three-month
old salary freeze levied against civil service employees of the
Ministry of Legal Affairs has been indefinitely extended pending
turnover of documents clarifying who authorized the multi-year
payroll excesses. While the Legal Affairs Minister has consistently
defended his staff's right to receive pay commensurate with their
education and on par with their ministerial counterparts within the
Government of National Unity, a recently concluded investigation by
the Ministry of Labor has revealed that senior officials within MOLA
receive monthly salaries that averaged eight times greater than
their GOSS colleagues elsewhere in the civil service. Specialized
allowances outpaced those awarded in Khartoum by a scale greater
than 5:1. The Minister's involvement in the pay scandal remains
unclear: payroll is handled at the Undersecretary or Director
General-level in most ministries, and Labor's report demonstrated
that the Minister himself receives only the fourth highest salary in
the ministry. However, the controversy does provide one of the
South's foremost attorneys with a significant distraction as the
Government of Southern Sudan prepares for forthcoming Abyei
arbitration, continued wrangling over the details of the 2009
elections, and the demarcation of the North/South border. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly awarded Minister
for Labor, Public Service, and Human Resources Development Awut Deng
Acuil its first-ever standing ovation on August 13 following
three-hours of detailed testimony on the state of the GOSS civil
service. Payroll and operating costs continue to make up about 80%
of the GOSS yearly budget expenditures. Deng's ministry has just
concluded an eight-month investigation into pay scales and
employment rosters, eliminating approximately one million thirty
seven ghost workers from the rolls and saving the GOSS a still-to-be
calculated but sizeable amount in operating expenses (septel). Deng
told ConGen PolOff at the margins of her testimony that her
presentation on right-sizing the GOSS civil service payroll was
long-planned. However, she allowed that specific revelations about
the Ministry of Legal Affairs were driven by a formal request by
Maridi MP Peter Bashir Gbendi (SPLM), one of the Assembly's most
vocal critics of government corruption, and a leading figure within
the SPLM's now-defunct Interim National Council. Gbendi is also in
the midst of a personal feud with Legal Affairs Minister Michael
Makuei, angered by what he derided to ConGen PolOff as Makuei's
"overly timid approach" to corruption allegations tied to the GOSS
Presidency. (COMMENT: Gbendi's overly-specific request for
information on MOLA, despite the Ministry of Labor's frank admission
that a majority of GOSS ministries suffer from "payroll excesses,"
appears to be another vehicle by which to indirectly pressure Makeui
to move forward on outstanding corruption investigations such as the
2006/2007 Al Cardinal procurement scandal. END COMMENT.)

3. (SBU) Makuei is familiar with such criticism from Gbendi and
others, but countered to ConGen PolOff that "one needs to understand
the language of your boss." According to the Minister of Legal
Affairs, Kiir continues to actively signal that he will permit
corruption investigations focused on presidential staffers to be
taken "only so far." Reached the afternoon of Deng's testimony, the
minister maintained that his hands are tied and furthering the Al
Cardinal investigation remains a short-term impossibility. Personal
feuds between Gbendi and Makuei aside, the evidence compiled by the
Labor Ministry's "Pay Sheets Review Committee Taskforce" has
presented Makuei with a sizeable scandal. Not only is the Minister
now faced with responding to an incensed SSLA (and by all accounts,
GOSS Council of Ministers), but also he must curb a downward trend
in productivity motivated by the three-month old salary freeze that
has been imposed upon his staff. Laws continue to bottleneck at
MOLA - some twenty-six pieces of legislation are awaiting
transmittal to the SSLA, held hostage by disgruntled but equally
over-worked attorneys.

4. (SBU) While Makuei has long-argued that his staff deserve pay
commensurate with their education and on par with their counterparts
within the GNU Ministry of Justice, the figures unearthed by Deng
defy rationalization. With Makuei absent from the chamber, Deng
effortlessly struck down arguments for "MOLA exceptionalism." Deng
reminded an incredulous SSLA that MOLA's salary expenditures
exceeded already approved "specialized rates and incentives" for the
ministry. The Assembly approved a salary supplemental in late 2006
for MOLA's advanced degree holders which adjusted their pay scales
into a range per month of 2,205 SDG for Grade 5 officials and 8,850
SDG for the undersecretary.

5. (SBU) However, Deng's investigation found that MOLA staff receive
salaries that far exceed the Assembly's past generosity. Makuei's
Undersecretary actually receives a monthly salary of 18,640 SDG
versus the standardized GOSS-approved pay scale for undersecretaries
of 2,500 SDG. Senior Counsels earn a monthly salary of 15,550 SDG

KHARTOUM 00001295 002 OF 002


against similarly ranked GOSS civil servants earning only 2,375 SDG.
MOLA civil servants in pay grades 3, 4, and 5 receive 10,650 SDG,
6,400 SDG, and 4,230 SDG monthly, against the GOSS-approved budget
for those ranks of 2,251 SDG, 1,959 SDG, and 1,701 respectively. A
non-degree holding clerical secretary at MOLA makes more money than
a university degree-holding civil servant at other ministries hired
on with a minimum of two years prior work experience.

6. (SBU) Despite such revelations, Deng maintained that the majority
of MOLA employees deserved to continue to receive tailored salaries
and allotments. "I have no quarrel with the sentiment that our best
minds must be compensated for what they sacrifice when they choose
to work in the South rather than Khartoum," and she encouraged the
SSLA to continue the trend. However, in addition to the Ministry's
inability to explain how three civil servants receive higher
salaries than the Minister himself, no paper trail could found to
justify how MOLA attorneys receive allowances out of sync with their
Khartoum counterparts. While Deng agreed that adjustments must be
made for the cost of living in Juba, the allowance ceiling for
Ministry of Justice officials in Khartoum was 3,900 SDG/month,
whereas MOLA advisers earned 16,640 SDG/month. This figure included
a base allowance five times greater than that received in Khartoum,
and an unspecified "nature of work" allowance that totaled 4,120 SDG
per month.

7. (SBU) During oral testimony before the SSLA laced with sarcasm,
Labor Minister Deng painted a picture of a rogue Legal Affairs
Ministry unaccountable to neither her ministerial directives nor the
Assembly's budget ceilings. While much of Deng's testimony revealed
her own ministry's inability patrol ministerial excesses elsewhere
in the executive branch, MOLA's actions were portrayed as the most
egregious. "While my Ministry's motto is "services without fear or
favor," she noted, "I am embarrassed to admit this standard appears
not to be met across all sectors."

8. (SBU) "Beyond explanations of outright tribalism, nepotism, or
favoritism," she continued, "I cannot explain why Legal Affairs is
allowed to operate without an appropriately itemized payroll, why
unqualified candidates merit specialized training, or why they have
been permitted to shun direct requests for information from both my
ministry and that of the Ministry of Finance."

9. (SBU) Moreover, the Labor Minister pointedly noted to the
Assembly that the Ministry of Legal Affairs had appeared to abandon
appropriate levels of accountability or any semblance of a
paper-trail when unknown staff members authorized pay clerks to
exceed the pay roll budget for both the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years.
Decisions to eschew standing labor practices remain equally
unjustified.
Of twenty-two MOLA staff pursuing donor-funded degree programs
overseas, the Ministry of Labor had deemed eight staff members
"technically unqualified" to receive the training, one of the
grounds that the employee - as a MOLA staffer -- is pursuing a
degree in medicine. Despite disqualification by the GOSS and the
mismatched degree, MOLA continues to pay their salary - this on top
of full living and educational stipends received by each of the
students.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: Makeui has refuted aspects of Deng's charges in
the media, and has committed to an appearance before the Assembly
the week of August 25. While the Minister's desire to salvage his
previously spotless reputation may drive him to take action and
turnover a now three-month old request for a paper trail, swift
rectification of the payroll is unlikely. Makuei's ire at Gbendi
and others within the Assembly for formulating such a public
castigation without giving him a chance for a contemporaneous
response may simply play to his well-known stubborn streak, and
further exacerbate strained MOLA/SSLA relations during an all-too
critical period. Makuei's own standing has suffered likely at the
hands of malfeasance by his undersecretary, a damning airing of GOSS
"dirty laundry" all the more likely to be seized upon by the NCP
during the upcoming campaign season and intra-GNU discussions on CPA
implementation more generally.

ASQUINO

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