25 February 2013

Southern Africa: Unity State MPs On Recess After Failing to Impeach Speaker

Bentiu — Lawmakers in South Sudan's Unity State assembly have gone on a three-month recess, nearly two weeks after its members failed to impeach the speaker over allegations linked to corruption.

At least 28 lawmakers had signed the petition to have Simon Maguek Gai removed from office, but their demand was watered down by the state council of ministers.

John Kaway, the chairperson of specialized committee on information committee in the state assembly, said the move by MPs to impeach the speaker was "unconstitutional".

"Any motion, whether is it is private [a] motion or public motion to impeach the chairperson, deputy speaker or speaker has to go according to the procedure of raising a motion", Kaway told Sudan Tribune Monday.

The official, in defense of the embattled speaker, said any lawmaker intending to raise a motion has to go through the assembly clerk, who then forwards such a motion for discussion on a fixed date.

Kaway also dismissed as "untrue" claims by a section of parliamentarians that Gai mismanaged funds meant for assembly operations.

Only a handful of MPs, including the speaker attended Monday's assembly session during which the assembly announced the three-month recess.

Majority of MPs, on February 18, passed a "vote of no confidence" against the assembly's speaker, accusing him of not abiding by South Sudan transitional constitution.

In the vote, which the MPs called a week ago, 28 out of the state's 48 parliamentarians, who are all from South Sudan's ruling party - the SPLM - voted to impeach Gai for actions contrary to constitution of Unity state and national laws.

Lawmakers in the state accuse the speaker of illegally passing a controversial policy in July last year to reduce civil servant salaries without putting it to a vote. Other crimes, he allegedly committed include;

Appointing clerks who were unable to perform basic tasks like not publishing the legislative agenda;

Grounding three government vehicles and hiring them out to MPs;

Failing to form a parliamentary committee to review revenue collection;

Diverting funds allocated for the operation of the assembly into his own businesses by lending money to some MPs at an interest rate of 30%;

That all bills passed by the assembly had not been compiled and submitted to the Unity state governor for him to sign.

Peter Dak Khan, one the 28 MPs who signed the petition to impeach the speaker insists the decision by the latter to remain in-charge of the assembly affairs is unconstitutional.

"This former speaker who has imposed himself to be speaker calls for 14 members and declares [the] assembly is closed. This is a complete violation [of the constitution]," said Khan, who accused the speaker of applying "jungle" laws.

The current fight in the state assembly, sources told Sudan Tribune, has now caused a rift between the state council of ministers and lawmakers, mainly from the ruling party. This week, a meeting called for SPLM members was abruptly postponed, with no reasons given.

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