Sudd Institute's rebuttal to Thon Ayiei: 'We're independent'

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 03:42
Written by Sudd Institute, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), newsudanvision.com
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(Juba, South Sudan) - This note is a response to the article referenced above and in which Thon Agany Ayiei, the author, cited the Sudd Institute as being among the consultancy firms or think tanks subsidizing corruption in the Republic of South Sudan.

To the author, some of these institutions, formed mainly by South Sudanese who got their education in the Diaspora, aim at marketing their services to the government and unnecessarily accessing public funds that should wisely be used to permanently employ these consultants within the government. The firms, according to the author, are developed in support of family members within the government, subsequently lending them easy access to government’s contracts. Basically, developing these institutions this way ultimately encourages corruption as the author has forthrightly argued. More broadly, the author’s general plea has something deserving to learn from, albeit incoherently articulating it and missing the target. The more compelling case the author raises is the underlying murkiness of government’s contracts in South Sudan.

This response refutes the author’s crude attribution that the Sudd Institute operates off government’s contracts, indeed subsidizing corrupt practices in the nascent nation. As well, the response attempts to correct some other key anomalies the piece harbors.  

The Sudd Institute

Though the author’s opinions might be true of some other think tanks established for soliciting jobs from the government and the international community, the Sudd Institute presents a rather peculiar image. First, the Institute was established as an independent research institute with the aim of promoting informed and more accountable public policy and practice that adequately respond to population needs. It does not seek funds from any of the government’s institutions. Instead, it seeks funding externally, presently with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) as its main funder. 

Secondly, the Institute, founded with rather altruistic visions in mind, is led by highly skilled South Sudanese, as the author seems to clearly acknowledge. That the founders of the Institute are well skilled surely troubles the view that their organization is employment-driven, for the founders have more lucrative employment opportunities elsewhere, particularly in the International Community. Given example, the Institute’s Executive and the Research Directors recently turned down a financially more rewarding 3-year contract with Deloitte, with their decision primarily premised upon human factor, that which the Institute advances. Similarly, the Institute’s Finance/Admin and Training Directors have both received high-ranking position offers from the government but equally declined.  

Third, the Sudd Institute is driven by its own agenda. This means that it doesn’t seek funding that won’t further its main interest of promoting effective policy-making in South Sudan. Since its founding back in 2012, the Institute has received numerous contractual offers from the international community, but has only taken on one of these because of its immediate policy relevance.

Four, the Sudd Institute provides pro bono services to some pockets of public institutions, namely the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the University of Juba. While the Sudd Institute works in collaboration with the government mainly for reasons encircling policy engagement, it does not seek government’s funding for all its projects. Similarly, all of this goes to demonstrate that the Institute is a clearly disciplined and responsible institution and neither engages in corruption nor subsidizes such or similarly activities in any way, as the author seems to suggest.

Government’s employment

The author also promotes other important interests, particularly those concerned with upgrading government’s capacity through the integration of the Diaspora’s returning South Sudanese into the labor government’s labor force:

 “Some have even formed their own consulting firms or Think Tanks, such as the SUDD Institute and the Center for Strategic Analyses and Research (C-SAR). The funny thing though is that the dominating market for these consultants is the government of South Sudan. So why are young highly educated South Sudanese resorting to marketing their knowledge and skills to the government through consulting firms instead of directly applying for government jobs?”

This suggestion is incoherent given that it encourages the usual economic woe: exclusive reliance on government’s jobs. What would have been more convincing is if the author sought increased public investments in the private sector in order to stimulate employment, with private consultancy firms or think tanks as partners in this endeavor. Instead of trashing ideas that create more employment opportunities in South Sudan, what would seem more policy-engaging is emphasizing how to best make use of these new institutions, with considerable focus on structural challenges that lead to exploitation of the public. Likewise, being a consultancy or think thank business is not synonymous with being unscrupulous; rather, systemic, structural problems generally animate poor practices in any system. These can be addressed somewhat differently, but the private sector ban, which the author seems to advocate, is not germane, as he wrote:

“Another way of getting a job with the government is to come together as a group of young intellectuals and form a consulting firm or a Think Tank and try to market your ideas to the government through such initiatives. Those who are adventuring in this business seem to be well off as our government seems to like everything foreign than anything indigenous.”

Really? So, the South Sudanese consultants aren’t indigenous? Vexing even more is that the author suggests elsewhere the integration of these foreigners into the South Sudanese public system.

In another erroneous passage, the author asserted that “the government is losing money to hire consultants it should have employed as regular nationals, and at the same time, it is losing a generation of intellectuals as more highly educated youth are being motivated to join the consulting business.”

Sure, the government might be finding it difficult inducting highly seasoned folks if there are other lucrative employment opportunities elsewhere, but that needs addressing through mechanisms that attract better skilled individuals. As well, the government doesn’t necessarily lose money if the services for which it pays are rightly delivered. In fact, the government gains by creating employment avenues past its institutional realms. What seems more worrying here should have been how firms get awarded publicly funded contracts, a probable source of corruption.

Conclusion

This response has clarified that the Sudd Institute has no contracts with the government of South Sudan, therefore does not subsidize corrupt activities in the country as the author raised. Instead, it provides pro bono services to a number of public institutions. As well, the Institute suggests the author would have been better served arguing structural loopholes that lead to corruption in South Sudan, especially in publicly funded contractual businesses. Suggesting private sector ban merely on ground of corruption in the government is overtly inconsistent. A number of other suggestions the author makes regarding the country’s economic issues are equally quixotic. For more information about the Sudd Institute, please, visit our website www.suddinstitute.org

 

Department of Communications

The Sudd Institute