By Philip Buda Ladu
The National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC) has started its second mandate of reviewing the country’s necessary laws as mandated by the Revitalized Agreement in a speedy pace, handing over the National Audit Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs on Wednesday.
The NCAC which its mandate was renewed last week and resumed its duties immediately was quick to hand over one reviewed Bill to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs within one week’s period.
The NCAC handed over one of the most critical Act that deals with financial accountability of all the Government entities operating with public funds; that’s the National Audit Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 which establishes the National Audit Chamber to audit all books of accounts of the government.
The Amendment Bill provides for the conformity of the Southern Sudan Audit Chamber Act, 2011 with Constitutional, legal and political guiding principles, objectives and ideals in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflicts in the Republic of South Sudan, 2018. Hereinafter referred to as, the Agreement and the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 (as amended).
The Bill also provides for the establishment and governance of the National Audit Chamber, the appointment of the Auditor General, the Deputy Auditors General, Auditors, Corporate Staff, establishment of the National Audit Advisory Committee and the functions and powers of the Chamber, procedures for auditing and reporting on accounts of the Government Ministries, Institutions, Agencies, Departments and Corporations that receive and speed public funds.
The amendment also introduced guiding principles to be adhered to by the National Audit Chamber and its personnel in discharge of powers, functions and duties provided under the Agreement, Constitution and the Act.
“We had come here today to hand over the National Audit Act to the Minister of Justice, because as you know when the National Constitutional Amendment Committee prepares Bills in order to incorporate the agreement into the laws, it is required by the agreement to hand over those Bills to the Minister of Justice so that the Minister of Justice is able to hand them over to the Cabinet and also to the Parliament” Gichira Kibara the Chairperson of NCAC told journalists after handing over the Bill.
The National Audit Act is one of the Acts that is required by the agreement to be amended, so that the Audit Chamber is given more independence to be able to audit all the accounts of the government and ensure that there is proper management of the finances of the government and also ensure that the audit reports are taken to the National Assembly so that the National Assembly is able to play its oversight role.
“We are in the process of reviewing most of the important laws that govern that finance management including; the Public Finance Management Act, the Banking Act, the Petroleum laws” he said.
After handing over the National Audit Act, Gichira further underscored that they are now turning their attention towards reviewing of the elections laws as the country gears towards the end of the Transitional period that’s going to be concluded with elections.
“The most urgent now that we will be focusing on is the Elections Act, so that the elections will be done when the parties are ready before the end of the transitional period” he noted.
Meanwhile, Justice Ruben Madol Arol, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs upon receiving the Amendment Bill, was overwhelmed by the speed at which the NCAC took to resume their second mandate, expressing his gratitude over the NCAC level of commitment.
“It was only last week that the NCAC resumed its work and here we are before the end of the week and they have started to deliver. That level of commitment that speed with which they are engaging with their mandate to us is very much encouraging” he said “I would want to say if we maintain that momentum it shouldn’t be difficult for us to cover all the areas for legislation and review that are specifically mentioned to be done by the NCAC, passed to the ministry of Justice and from there to complete the enactment of these laws” Justice Madol asserted.
He said it will also be much possible for the institutional reforms that will need legislations to be done with the help of the NCAC.
“To us we are very happy and we are willing to match the same level of commitment with the NCAC, however like everything else we hope all the stakeholders should join hands in order to resolve all the challenges that are on the way of the NCAC members and that means issues connected with the tools that they require to have in order to do their work. The commitment to quickly expedite the work that is being done by all other stakeholders in their areas of capacities during legislation” emphasized the Justice Minister.
Madol underscored that will take the expertise and speed of the Directorate of Legislation at the ministry of Justice that the Bill will reach Council of Ministers and to proceed to the Parliament thereafter.
“With us it is just a technical thing that is determined by our Directorate of Legislation and we don’t just put deadlines but as soon as it is done, you will see and you will hear” he told reporter at the Ministry’s premises after reception of the Audit Act Amendment Bill.
The Amendment Bill consist of forty-three (43)amendments sections affecting ten (10)chapters in the principal Act out of its original eleven (11) chapters. A new Chapter XA has been added in the Cat after Chapter.
Under Chapter Two; the amendment section provide for the change of title of the Southern Sudan Audit Chamber to National Audit Chamber and specify its primary responsibilities being: to set auditing standards; enhance transparency; accountability and good governance and adherence to the national, regional and international audit standards.
Furthermore, chapter two provides for the establishment of the Chamber as an independent constitutional body within the Government of South Sudan that shall be accountable to the public through the Assembly.