The New Times (Kigali)

Rwandatel Officials Named in Fraud Resign

Kigali — Two top officials of the former state-owned telecommunications giant, Rwandatel, have submitted their resignation letters to the new employers, Terracom, which acquired the utility company just a few months ago, The New Times Investigative Desk, has learnt.

According to sources that talked to our reporter, the officials who have so far tendered in their resignation letters amid allegations of financial and professional impropriety are the former Director of Finance and Administration (DAF) Peter Maridadi and, the Head of Internet/Networking Department, Ivan Kaningu. The sources also said that other heads of departments are expected to resign soon.

When contacted on phone Thursday evening, Maridadi first asked our reporter, "Who told you I resigned? I'm still in office". However, when pressed further he confirmed that he had resigned adding, "It's true I resigned." When asked why, he said, "For personal reasons". When the reporter asked him whether it wasn't for corruption related charges, he said, "Maybe there are some people saying that, but at least I don't know that. If there is evidence, you can go there and check, but I have no idea about that".

Mr Ivan Kaningu also confirmed that he had resigned but declined to comment further, saying he was in a meeting.

Earlier, when members of The New Times Investigative Desk went to Rwandatel head offices in Kacyiru, inside sources there disclosed that Maridadi resigned a week ago.

"He went a long time ago. He resigned," a source said.

According to sources at Rwandatel, Maridadi is accused of lack of transparency in financial management, nepotism and acting fraudulently in the pecuniary allotment of purchases of machines and equipment.

A source at Rwandatel told our reporter, "He (Maridadi) has unlawfully defied government procedures by slashing the salaries of targeted employees and, engaged in dubious hiring and firing of employees. He has mostly hired family members and created unnecessary departments at Rwandatel in order to recruit friends and relatives into juicy positions".

Conferences

According to the sources, Rwandatel organized a three-day training seminar hosted at Alpha Palace Hotel, where Frw 30 million was spent unjustifiably.

"There were less than one hundred participants who were served with fruit juice and snacks", how can this cost Frw 30M?

He also alleged that Maridadi squandered funds after dubiously registering a Fiber Optics Expert to enable him attend several Fiber Optics' conferences in the region.

When Maridadi was reached on phone Thursday evening to comment on the various allegations leveled against him, he declined to comment on the Alpha Palace seminar only saying: "There are many conferences, which one do you mean?"

He, however, acknowledged attending the Fibre Optics conferences in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya but not before retorting: "Which experts?"

On allegations that he frequently took 'unnecessary' foreign trips Maridadi said: "I don't assign myself to go abroad; ask the Director General," he shot back.

On inflation of prices of equipment he said: "Go to Rwandatel and check."

Fiber optic cable technology is used for transmitting voice, images and other data at close to the speed of light. Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania last year agreed to establish fiber communication links across land and water and each member country was asked to send professional experts for various fiber optics technology conferences.

"Maridadi has been working at Rwandatel as the DAF and holds a Bachelors Degree in Statistics from Makerere University. This is completely a different field (from IT) but he has been representing Rwanda in the (Fiber Optics) conferences," the source added.

Kaningu is accused by co-workers of lacking the minimum qualifications to head the department he was managing before resigning. Kaningu's salary was inflated to a tune of Frw800, 000 ever since he joined the institution.

It is also alleged that Maridadi squandered funds at Rwandatel and accumulated wealth including houses, several cars and businesses both in Kigali and at his ancestral home at Nyagatare in Umutara province.

Sources Inside Rwandatel have also disclosed that the DAF has been involved in defrauding the telecommunications company by defiling procedures of health insurance, "at least two Rwandatel employees one of whom is a lady and PRO have each received over US$5000 from the DAF. Normally every Rwandatel worker is insured by RAMA hence illegal for foreign treatment without clear evidence that treatment couldn't be done within the country," said a source.

Ombudsman toughens

The Office of Ombudsman recently issued Rwandatel officials, both current and former, with wealth declaration forms and directed them to declare their wealth. When reached for comment, the Ombudsman, Tito Rutaremara told The New Times that whoever assumes government office, must declare his wealth.

"I am aware that Rwandatel officials have been issued wealth declaration forms to fill and submit immediately," he said, adding: "even after one resigns from a government job, they must declare their wealth."

According to sources, as investigations at Rwandatel intensify, most officials suspected of indulging in fraudulent acts are set to resign.

It is also said that Terracom, the company that purchased Rwandatel has uncovered gross financial mismanagement and losses at Rwandatel, leading to some misunderstandings between the buyer and seller, especially on the exact value of the utility company.

But Rutaremara denied his office had issued the Wealth Declaration Forms as a result of the alleged standoff between Terracom and the government.

"My (Ombudsman) office issued wealth declaration forms to Rwandatel before it was sold off. Any wealth accumulated before, during and after assuming public office must be declared," Rutaremara explained, while referring to the Constitution.

Given the state of affairs, observers say that some former Directors General of Rwandatel, including the former State Minister for Energy Engineer Nkusi Sam, Ephrem Ruzindana and, Marc Kabandana (now at RIAM) might be required to respond to the exercise.

Also, the sources claim the wealth declaration exercise has not been received well by former employees of Rwandatel.

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