South Sudan’s ‘Minister without Portfolio’ committed to lean and effective government



Dr. Priscilla Nyanyang Kuch, Minister without Portfolio in her office in Juba. Photo by Ting Mayai/New Sudan Vision.

(Juba NSV) - When President Salva Kiir tapped Priscilla Nyanyang Kuch as South Sudan’s Minister without Portfolio in June 2010, his move attracted scorn from the public. In the eyes of South Sudanese, Dr. Nyanyang’s appointment was redundant. It signaled an unjustified expansion in government. 

 Exactly a year on since she was made Minister, Nyanyang is spearheading a research project with the goal of gauging how the Government of Southern Sudan has performed since it was created in late 2005. “What we are now evaluating is a sub-government. This was a sub-government to the National government,” said Dr. Nyanyang.

“For us to turn it into a national government,” she added, “We need to understand what worked and what did not work.”

The research project, dubbed “Comprehensive Evaluation of the Government of South Sudan” is an eight-week research that assembles South Sudanese experts from diverse academic fields.

Dr. Luka Biong, former Minister of Council of Ministers in GoNU, Minister of Public Labour and Public Service, Mrs. Awut Deng Achuil, Minister of Par liamentary Affairs, Mr. Michael Makuei Lueth, Minister of CPA and Peace Implementation, Mr. Pagan Amum, are members of the Steering Committee.

The Committee is chaired by Dr. Nyanyang Kuch, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the President, although the South Sudan Center for Census, Statistics and Evaluation Commission, under Mr. Isaiah Chol Aruai, is taking the lead.

The Center will collect primary data and crunch the results.

“We hope that our findings and the recommendations will become action oriented. They’ll become programs of the government” of the Republic of South Sudan, she said.

A graduate of the Faculty of Medicine from the University of Khartoum, Dr. Nyanyang holds Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS), 1978, and Masters of Community Medicine, 1987, from the University of Khartoum. 

She was the SPLM member of National Assembly and Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee in the National Parliament from 2005-2010.

Defying the current   

 To be made Minister maybe a novelty but to be decreed as Minister without Portfolio carries its own baggage. The first cabinet for South Sudan was made up of 25 Ministers. In 2010, GoSS added 7 more ministries, including Ministry of Peace and CPA Implementation, Ministry of Investment, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and Ministry without Portfolio.  All of these ministries were not accounted for in the 2010 budget year.

Analysts were particularly suspicious that Kiir’s administration was expanding the government to accommodate politicians, without the aim of delivering optimum results for the citizens. “Originally, when I was made the Minister without Portfolio, I had few weeks where, if I went to introduce myself as Minister without Portfolio, people were laughing at me,” she said. “There was a lot of cynicism.”

Part of this skepticism that Nyanyang, also an academic and self-professed ‘activist’, talked about, stemmed from public perception that she was heading a Ministry without stated objectives.

Dr. Nyanyang said her first days in office were “quite difficult.” However, a year later, she has found her own voice in the Comprehensive Evaluation of the Government of South Sudan project. These days, she’s not only proud of her ministry, but she also wants people to know its importance.  “I think my mindset was that, here I was, there was flexibility. I was able to pick up issues that no other ministries were dealing with. I was picking up cross-cutting issues from the Office of the President,” she said.   

Changing business

 In  May last year, President Kiir asked in his inaugural speech for the GoSS to be evaluated. Dr. Nyanyang took up the issue, being Minister without Portfolio. In February, the Council of Ministers adopted her proposal, which is the genesis of the research project.   “There are those things which we cannot do if we’re having a structured ministry,” she said

Although the set objectives for the Evaluation are noble, there will be challenges, said Minister Nyanyang.

One, the research team is expected to produce an actionable document within 45 days.  ”The other challenge is how am going to convince my colleagues to use it as working document,” she said. 

But she was optimistic. “We would like to challenge those who think we will not deliver,” she said.  “We will deliver.”

She went on. “Definitely, the Government is going to turn around, the world is going to turn around.

“If we as a Government are thinking seriously of looking at ourselves, how we do business; I think that will send a better message.”

A convincing message for Nyanyang is “effective and efficient government” that delivers to citizens in the states and the counties.  “If that’s going to happen,” she said, “It means that we might have a leaner national government.

“Are you asking that I will fall off?” she asked.  “I don’t mind falling off.”

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