OpEd, Politics

Unveiling the Legal Quagmire: Standing Order Number 1 and the Traffic Directorate’s Unchecked Authority

By Gama Hassan Oscas

In a shocking display of unchecked authority, the Traffic Directorate recently issued Standing Order Number 1 on November 4, 2023, a move that has raised serious legal questions about the legitimacy and consistency of such directives with the existing legal framework in South Sudan. This scathing legal opinion critically examines the standing order, highlighting its lack of legal foundation, arbitrary fee imposition, and the apparent disregard for established laws and oversight mechanisms.

The primary cause for concern stems from the standing order’s conspicuous lack of any explicit legal basis. Notably absent is any citation of relevant legislation, particularly the Traffic Act of 2003, the cornerstone legal instrument that established and regulates the Traffic Department as an institution. The glaring omission of a legal foundation raises a fundamental question: can such orders be deemed legitimate or consistent with the established laws of the country?

Standing Order Number 1 imposes a hefty fee of SSP 20,000 per bus for travel documents, coupled with penalties up to SSP 10,000 for traffic violations. The arbitrary nature of these fees, without clear legal authority, not only raises questions about their validity but also poses a significant financial burden on the public. In the absence of a reference to the Financial Act of any given financial year, determining the basis for fee imposition becomes a critical issue.

One of the most alarming aspects of the standing order is its implication for revenue collection. Without a legal foundation, it becomes questionable whether such collections constitute national revenue. If these fees are not provided for in the Financial Act, how was the amount determined, and where do these funds go? The lack of transparency in revenue collection and the absence of valid government receipts from the National Revenue Authority further complicate the matter.

Equally troubling is the silence of the National Parliament in the face of these questionable orders. The Transitional Constitution, 2011, bestowed upon the National Parliament the responsibility of oversight and checks and balances. However, the apparent lack of intervention raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight and whether some individuals or institutions have become immune to scrutiny.

The standing order exemplifies a trend of impunity and an apparent disregard for established legal processes. The Traffic Directorate, under the leadership of the Director General, has been issuing several orders outside the provisions of the Traffic Act, of 2003. This abuse of power not only erodes public trust but also sets a dangerous precedent for other institutions, suggesting that some individuals may be operating outside the boundaries of the law.

The standing order also reveals a concerning pattern of sidestepping established institutions, with the Traffic Department assuming functions that fall within the jurisdiction of entities such as the National Roads Authority. This circumvention not only undermines the roles and responsibilities of these institutions but also contributes to a lack of coordination and oversight.

In light of the legal quagmire presented by Standing Order Number 1 and the apparent abuse of authority within the Traffic Directorate, there is an urgent need for the National Parliament to review and amend the Traffic Act, 2003. This review should reinforce the legal foundations of the Traffic Department and ensure that institutions are governed by laws, preventing the issuance of illegal orders without citing any legal provisions.

In conclusion, Standing Order Number 1 raises serious legal concerns, from its lack of legal basis to arbitrary fee imposition and apparent impunity. The National Parliament must reassert its authority, conduct a thorough review of the Traffic Act, 2003, and take decisive action to uphold the rule of law. The unchecked power exercised by some individuals within institutions poses a threat to the principles of transparency, accountability, and the overall well-being of the public. It is imperative that the legal foundations of governance be strengthened to ensure a just and lawful society for the citizens of South Sudan.

The author of the opinion is an advocate and can be reached on email at: oscarsgama@gmail.com


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