National, News, Politics

Sluggish renovation of parliament raises fear of another ‘Dura Saga’

The main meeting hall still under renovation

By Philip Buda Ladu

Renovation work at the National Parliament building is still far away from completion two years down the road with the work at a snail speed mounting uncertainty over the financial handlings. In 2018, the speaker announced plans to renovate the building after reports of leakages that interrupted parliament sittings.The work commenced 2018 and was expected to be completed in a couple of months, the months have turned into years and the renovation is not far from over. No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper reporter visited the parliament building on Monday and observed that construction workers were still busy dismantling the old tiles of the building and the sealing while new ones were being fixed. The main meeting Hall had its seats and tables all removed and only an empty-dusty wide room could be seen with some heaps of box files of documents spread on the rough-dirty floor. Almost all the corridors of the building were seen parked with broken and fairly good leather, chairs and office tables as the chambers of the parliamentary building undergo renovations with dusts in almost every corner of the building, an indication that the work might have just resumed a few months ago.

Why has it taken that long?

One lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity told the reporter that the renovation work started without a specified period for completion and no budget stipulated for the renovation was disclosed to lawmakers. In most cases every construction project at least has anticipated timeframe for the completion of the task which are made public but the Parliamentary building case seems to be different as sensitive information looks classified including name of the construction company, the MP alleged. The Lawmaker said it was only the speaker and the Clerk who had information about the renovation process. Deng Tel Ayuen, the Chairperson of Legislation and Justice Committee who was also contacted by the reporter also declined to comment on the matter saying the Speaker of Parliament and the Parliamentary Clerk should be the right people to explain why the renovation work is taking long to be completed.

When contacted by phone, the Speaker of the August House, Ubuch Ujwok Akuo declined to answer why the renovation work had taken that long saying the matter wasn’t his role. “You go to the Parliament and just ask anybody in the Parliament not the Speaker! It is not the role of the Speaker Okay!” Ujwok responded to No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on phone on Monday 19th April 2021. Since 2019, the lawmakers have been conducting their business in Freedom Hall as the renovation had already kicked off.

The long wait to return for business

The lawmakers are currently for their recess and are also waiting for reconstitution into the Revitalized Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA). The Presidency had already missed several self-imposed deadlines to reconstitute the Parliament. Deng Tel Ayuen, said they are eagerly waiting for the announcement of the reconstituted TNLA as all the parties are believed to have submitted their names. “We are even anxiously waiting as members of Parliament for the reconstitution of the Assembly but the thing is left to the parties to the agreement so we have no any other information other than just to wait. We were told that names have been submitted but if the difficulty is on what side we cannot know” Tel told No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on phone.

Even when the TNLA was reconstituted, what awaits the new lawmakers is the empty-dusty wide room. Tel said if the TNLA was reconstituted in the few coming days then the August House will opt to carry its business in the Freedom Hall as they did last time. The National Legislative Assembly was established in 2011 by the interim constitution of South Sudan 2005. As a result of a peace agreement signed in 2015 the National Legislative Assembly was reconstituted as the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) with 400 members. The yet to be reconstituted TNLA under the 2018 peace accord would have 550 members drawn from different parties.

The reconstituted TNLA would exercise the functions of; overseeing the performance of the national government institutions; approving plans, programs and policies of the national government; approving budgets; ratifying international treaties, conventions and agreements; adopting resolutions on matters of public concern; summoning ministers to answer questions of the Assembly on matters related to their ministries. It also carries the functions of approving appointments as required by the transitional constitution or the law; casting a legislation to regulate the conditions and terms of service of the Judiciary and its oversight mechanisms, these among others are the tasks as mandated by the constitution.

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