Nine hotels in Juba have given the South Sudanese government five days to clear accumulated accommodation arrears amounting to a staggering 10 million United States dollars.
There are more than 300 peace delegates, comprising Ministers, Members of Parliaments and Military Generals and other officials from various parties to the revitalized peace agreement, who are being accommodated in different hotels in Juba city.
In a letter written and addressed to Tut Gatluak Manime, the chairperson of the National Transitional Committee (NTC) yesterday, the nine hotels said they have not been paid since 2019.
“Dear client, in reference to our final notice letters dated November 2nd, 2020 and November 3rd, 2020 respectively regarding hotel’s arrears, it is very clear that our hotels/apartments’ offices had informed your office of the Chairperson of National Transitional Committee (NTC) and/or Presidential Advisor For Security Affairs on the demands of the accommodation arrears that had accrued and still accruing to or above 10 million USD without plans for payment,” the letter read in part.
“Therefore, we strongly urge your honourable office to settle our accounts as soon as possible so that we are able to clear our business responsibilities in the New Year 2021,” the letter continued. “Last but not least, we are again giving your honourable office final notice of five (5) days to relocate your clients from our accommodation hotels and apartments for normal businesses or pay in advance for their further accommodation services.”
According to the letter, the hotels will evict the peace delegates if the government does not pay them the accrued bill amounting to 10 million US dollars in five days.
The managers said they have been writing emails requesting the head of NTC who also doubles as the presidential advisor on security affairs, Tut Gatluak, since November 2020 to clear the accommodation arrears in vain.
Joseph Chuol, the representative of Referenda Hotel, said they signed contracts with the government to accommodate the peace delegates which the latter have reneged.
“The contract said they were to clear the bill on a monthly or periodic basis but this has not actually happened. Some hotels have never received payment from 2019 to date. When we try to reach the chairman of the NTC, we are blocked for reasons we do not understand,” Chuol lamented.
Choul said they had no option and had resorted to reaching the officials publicly and that when the five-day ultimatum expires, the hotels might have to evict the delegates.
Mel Garang Yout, the Manager of the South Sudan Hotel in Buluk, said they were unable to renovate and repair damages to their facilities.
“The delegates are more than 300, it is more than two years and the NTC chairperson has refused to clear the hotel bills. In 2019, they have been paying little, that is 15 to 20 percent and it is not enough. But in 2020, they have not been paying anything and we have requested a meeting in vain. The chairperson of NTC has refused to meet with us that is why we decided to go public,” Garang told Radio Tamazuj.
Garang said South Sudan Hotel alone is demanding close to 2 million US dollars because apart from accommodating delegates the NTC also rents office space there.
“The accommodation for one delegate is 100 dollars per night but that is different from other hotels. We urge the government, especially the presidency, to intervene in this situation. We have given them one week to pay. Our workers are demanding their pay, they are opening cases against us since they have not been paid for more than six months. We also have credit with the suppliers,” Garang added.
He added that the hotels have also lost technical workers due to delay in paying their monthly salaries.
This is not the first time hotel owners demand the government to pay hotel bills.
The public and civil society groups have often accused the delegates of unnecessarily spending public funds on luxurious living, their bodyguards, family members, and friends at the expense of delivering services to the citizenry.
The government and the National Transitional Committee were not available to comment.
Reacting to the news, Community Empowerment for Progress Organization’s (CEPO) executive director, Edmund Yakani, said they were disturbed by the unending trend of misuse of public funds.
“Sincerely with due respect and honour to our politicians, since 2019 till today the country is still spending public funds at cost of 10 million USD for your accommodation and meals in the name of ‘we lack protection or safety in our own houses in Juba’ is a clear demonstration of mistrust and lack of confidence in the peace agreement itself. 80% of the politicians staying in the hotels have houses in Juba or are able to rent affordable apartments. 10 million USD for accommodation and meals besides incentives, this is too much,” Yakani admonished.
“This is a clear practice of self-centred politics, maybe partly this is the reason why the implementation of the peace agreement is very slow. This 10 million USD, if used for financing the transitional security arrangements on training and redeployment of the unified forces by now we would have made key accomplishments in the security sector. With respect and honour peace partners’ delegates in the hotels, kindly leave the hotel and get to your houses. What kind of politicians are you that are not ready to face challenges?” Yakani added.
Source: Radio Tamazuj