Finance minister faults new biometric system, salary raise for delayed salaries
The minister of finance and planning on Monday blamed the delay in paying civil servants’ salaries on the delay in passing the budget, adoption of a biometric system, and adjustment of the payroll to the new salary structure.
Addressing a press conference late on Monday evening, Minister Bak Barnaba Chol said his ministry is working hard to pay two months’ salary arrears to civil servants and the organized forces in the next few days.
“I want to apologize on behalf of the ministry of finance and planning to our civil servants and organized forces for the delay that happened in paying July and August salaries and I want to clearly say that the ministry of finance did not intend by any means to delay the salaries,” he said. “The delay happened because of three factors. First was the slight delay that happened during the discussion of the fiscal year budget 2023/2024. It was supposed to be passed earlier but it took a bit longer because of the discussion around the salary increment by 400 versus 600 percent. The other factor was the incorporation of this increment into our payrolls. We do not prepare the payrolls, they are prepared by spending agencies.”
“The council of ministers passed a resolution for the adoption and the use of a biometric system for the national payroll system so the finance ministry together with the ministry of public service are setting it up and that procedure takes a bit long because we have to incorporate the data into a system,” Minister Bak added.
He called for calm and stressed that money is available for the payment of the salaries which will be effected soon.
“We are doing this with the help of the World Bank, they are assisting us partially in this process and that is the reason that we delayed paying the salaries,” he explained. “There is no intent, we have not run out of cash completely to pay your salaries, we are following procedures to be able to pay you your salaries on time. In a few days, we will be in a position to pay your salaries.”
On the economic hardships, the finance minister said he is working in coordination with the central bank to stabilize the volatile market.
“Since I came in about a month and a couple of weeks ago, I have been trying my best to coordinate with all the relevant institutions. The central bank and we are working in collaboration with all these institutions including the ministry of trade to make sure the prices of essential commodities in the market are affordable,” Bak explained. “We know the dollar rate keeps fluctuating but we have managed to at least stabilize it. We are not happy about the rate but it goes through supply and demand kind of activity in the market. We need to be patient and as we increase the supply of the dollars in the market, the price of the dollar will decrease, and as a result stability or equilibrium in our foreign exchange market might be realized. It might not be fast but we are moving towards that.”
On the issue of the deal with U.S. firm Caltech Trading Corporation, the finance minister clarified media reports that the government had finalized a USD 3 billion deal which he said was not true.
According to Bak, during the meeting between President Salva Kiir and Caltech Trading Corporation on the sidelines of the recently concluded UN General Assembly in New York, formal discussions took place regarding potential investment opportunities in South Sudan but no deal was struck.
“Discussions between the finance ministry and Caltech have been ongoing since August 2023 exploring various potential areas of cooperation. However, it is important to clarify that as of now no formal agreement has been signed between the parties,” he explained. “The government of South Sudan remains committed to transparent and accountable processes in all its engagements, and any developments in this regard will be communicated to the public in due course.”
“Therefore, it is important to emphasize that no final agreement or deal has been reached at this time,” Minister Bak added.
He said that the Government of South Sudan follows a transparent and thorough process when engaging in significant investment agreements and any such agreements would require careful consideration, including legal and financial due diligence, as well as approval from relevant government bodies.
“We understand the importance of providing accurate and timely information to our citizens and the international community,” Bak reassured. “Therefore, we assure you that any developments related to this matter will be communicated through official channels by our nation's transparency and accountability standards.”