South Sudan’s police authorities have vowed to arrest suspects involved in the stealing of money that went missing from the president’s office recently.
|South Sudan’s information minister Barnaba Maria|
The announcement that money was stolen from President Salva Kiir’s office, generated disquiet in South Sudan, with some voices questioning why 176,000 South Sudanese Pound (SSP) or $14,000 was being kept in an office, and not the bank.
“We have clear and strong orders from the higher authority to deal with the situation. We have the names and only waiting for the five suspects involved in the act to hand themselves over. We have left it in the hands of the investigators, who are coordinating an agreement for the men to hand themselves over. If that agreement does not materialise, we are giving them until this Friday to voluntarily surrender or we will hunt them down," a senior police officer said.
He went on to say that the alleged suspects "were individuals within the office of the president” and came to learn of their involvement in stealing public money allegedly kept in the office for immediate services which requires paying cash on delivery.
“We got the information and their names through networking with other security organs and the information we got is that the group unknowingly exposed their secrets when they differed over how to divide the money. We are told the big guy, the one who knows where the money was kept and the one, whom we are currently investigating because he was actually the person holding the key, was heard telling the collaborators not to bother him because it was not anybody’s money. ’Why are you bothering me? If you want to say, say it? Whose money is it and who is clean this country?’," the officer reportedly quoted the group’s leader as saying.
Security personnel have so far decided to keep their investigation at a low level until one of the group reportedly confessed, but denied taking money himself.
“There is no better way to describe them. They are just thieves and must be dealt with properly. Actually we are being criticised for not arresting these suspects”, he said asking for his identity to be protected, saying some of the group were still working in the office of the president and doing it in a rush would not only jeopardise the whole investigation process but ignite public reactions, possibly demonstration.
Last week, the South Sudan government information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, admitted that there was “a break-in” at the Ministry of Presidency, where money was stolen and investigations are being launched on the matter.
Minister Marial expressed regret over the incident but refuted media reports that as much as $6mn may have been stolen.
“It is true there was a break in at the ministry of the presidency which is unfortunate to say but it is not true that the amount of money was six million dollars", Marial told reporters last week.
He explained that the office of the President is a large complex and the administration side where money was stolen $14,000 was taken very far from the actual office of the President.
"Relevant offices including the administration offices and security organs within the office of the president are currently investigating the cause,” he said.
The senior government official said that “the money taken was a petty cash for payment of drivers and overtime and any emergency situation that come up".
A release from the office of the president also said the amount stolen as SSP 176,196 or $14,000
"At no time was the actual Office of the President compromised or vulnerable, as it is located in a separate and fully enclosed compound. Security around the Office of the President is extremely controlled and the safety of the President was never compromised", a press release from the office said.
The statement which did not bear any name of the releasing official claimed that all accounts of the Office of the President are facilitated through the Ministry of Finance and cash is only availed for specific projects as necessary. The missing funds were delivered to pay salaries for junior staff that currently do not have bank accounts for direct deposit (mostly drivers and maintenance staff) and also for several special projects including the opening of the newest addition to the Office of the President complex, the statement adds.
It said that the necessary authorities, including the Presidential Protection Unit and the Police (CID Unit) are involved in the investigation. The investigation is currently under due process, and further details will only be made available upon its conclusion.
Additional security and safety measures, officials say, have been put in place to ensure that such an incident does not occur again.