By Fidel Munyeshyaka
Senior Research Rwanda, GLCSS
According to official figures, corruption cases have declined in Rwanda by 28.5 percent from last year and over 80 percent from 2004. In addition, complaints arising from legal disputes have declined by 34.5 percent from last year.
The Rwanda Ombudsman’s Office (ROO) Chairperson Tito Rutaremera forecasts that there will be 25 corruption cases this year compared to 35 cases last year and 127 cases in 2004. He adds the office expects 2,000 complaints related to legal disputes from 3056 cases recorded last year.
“Corruption cases have declined for three reasons,” said Rutaremera, explaining Rwanda’s Zero Tolerance Policy. “We have removed corrupt leaders in the last few years, we have added additional training and supervision, and the decentralization process lowered corruption cases.”
The 2005 data reveals that eight of the 35 corruption cases are connected to public funds embezzlement, three to tax embezzlement; 13 cases of improper management, six of fraudulent procurement practices and five cases of judicial corruption.
The 69 corruption cases of the127 recorded in 2004 concerned unauthorized spending, 34 cases of public fund embezzlement, 10 cases of district natural resources mismanagement, nine cases of forgery for embezzlement and six cases of illegal transfer of district natural resources.  
With regard to the 3,056 legal complains, 1,861 have been closed, 697 cases are still under investigation, nine cases have been transferred to the courts, 32 cases are still waiting investigation when the report was released, and 396 cases were resolved by the Ombudsman’s office teams during their field visits.
The Ombudsman told the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) that the  National Assembly has taken an active role in investigating public officials accused of corruption and abuse of office. This led to the resignation of a number of ministers.
The National Assembly sacked five ministers and the Prime Minister in 1999-2000.  Many public officials accused of corruption have resigned in 2004 following the investigation carried out by National Assembly together with the Ombudsman’s office. This followed the adoption of a code of conduct and rules of disclosure for public officials in 2001.
Rwanda’s constitution requires public office holders to declare their wealth as a part of a concerted campaign against corruption in government. Those who do not comply with this face prosecution. It is anticipated that this drive will promote transparency and prevent people from acquiring wealth fraudulently.

 

ROO officials told GLCSS that 3,490 politicians and other civil servants were asked to declare their wealth last year. Among them, 72 percent have declared their wealth while 28 percent remaining are still completing the process.   

 

The government created the Ombudsman’s Office in 2004 to monitor transparency and compliance with regulation in all governmental bodies and public sector. It was tasked to prevent and fight against injustice, corruption and other related offences in public and private administration. The body deals with corruption at the top level, mid-level and low level throughout the whole country.
Ombudsman Rutaremara explained that this mechanism has led to eradication of corruption especially at the senior government level. However, corruption remains rare in middle or technical institutions.
“The government established the National Tender Board (NTB) in 1997 trying to curb corruption in technical level. The leaders were accused of corruption in the form of misappropriation of public funds through fraudulent procurement practices, unauthorized spending and misuse of public goods,” he said.
The NTB issues and manages procurement rules, regulations, guidelines and policies. The body is currently serving as the procurement agency for most government purchases, including those made by parastatals and international donors.
The ROO officials cite other institutions established to distance public officials from tender and procurement process to curb corruption. These include Rwandan Revenue Authority (RRA) in charge of tax taxes and imports duty; Rwandan Investment and Export Promotion Authority (RIEPA) and Rwandan Privatization Secretariat in charge of government institutions and public goods privatization; Rwanda Utility Regulation Agency (RURA) in charge of certifying the performance-driving variable portion of the management contractor’s remuneration; National Bureau of Standards is in charge of the quality of different types of importation in the country and the  National Examination Council  prepares and corrects different tests.    

 

These institutions are under the control of the Government oversight Office of the Auditor General (OAG). The later carries out a continuous audit of government adherence to fiscal controls. The office audits on a yearly basis every ministry, government-owned business and major projects.
In 2004, OAG reported that over seven million dollars (US$ 7m) were unaccounted for in various government institutions and projects following investigation conducted into tender and procurement irregularities.  The report covering 2002 activities accused the Ministry of Education, the Civil Aviation Authority and the judicial sector of failing to account for the loss of $3.1 million.  Out of the 44 embezzlement-related cases tabled before the state prosecutor’s office, only 5 percent of the cases had been finalized while 75 percent were with the prosecutor, pending court proceedings.
Sources from National Police reveal that at least 139 police officers have been sacked over corruption in 2004. Recently nearly 80 police officers have been fired accused of corruption and more than 100 police officers were fired last year, including senior commanders.
However, different reports indicate corruption as endemic and common in low-level institutions (districts, sectors and cells). The ROO 2004 report shows that the 44 out of 127 corruption cases and infractions connected (35 percent) involved districts leaders and their assistants. The report involves 11 districts leaders and their assistants in public fund embezzlement, 19 in unauthorized bank withdrawals, five in selling or illegal transfer of district natural resources; one in forgery and eight in district natural resources mismanagement.
About 30 percent of the cases were prosecuted on the district level. Some five cases (4 percent) were submitted to higher level courts.
The ROO’s Rutaremara stressed the need for on-going administrative reform. 
“Districts and sectors have young graduated leaders also trained in limiting corruption. Moreover, we have organized trainings from cells to districts levels teaching the leaders, opinion leaders and the whole population how to fight and denounce corruption,” he said, adding that such training is also given to secondary schools pupils.
Reports show that most corruption cases on that level relate to the land issue. Last year the complaints related to land issues (688 cases) were second position to administrative complaints (714 cases).
Yussuf Nsengiyumva, director of the fight against corruption, states that corruption has started to decrease due to intensive sensitization against corruption. However, some international organizations report a high level of corruption in Rwanda.
 In its 2006 report on corruption perception index Transparency International  awarded  Rwanda 2.3 marks out of 10 and  ranked  it 121st out  of  163 countries in the  world with  regard  to  the  corruption perception. Last year Rwanda was awarded 3.1 marks and ranked at 83 position.

 

William Church is director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank with offices in Central and East Africa. You may contact William Church at wchurch@glcss.org. GLCSS trains African journalists, offers an on-site internship to foreign African studies students, and manages an exchange program with journalists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.
 

 

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