Ombudsman targets big corruption cases:
Rwanda's new Ombudsman, the former Chief Justice Aloysie Cyanzayire, says her office is auditing ministries, government corporations and tenders involving huge sums of money to fight corruption.
"Our main priority is to investigate how different firms win tenders because there is information that some tenders are won irregularly," she told The Independent.
Cyanzayire was speaking after appearing before parliament where MPs accused her office and that of the public prosecutor only publishes corruption cases implicating ordinary persons and low-key public servants while cases involving senior public servants and huge sums of money are rarely exposed.
A list of people convicted of corruption last year that was released by Cyanzayire's office recently shows that of the 179 individuals, 81 or 45.2% are farmers, 18 are low-ranked police officers and 17 are traders.
The report also includes 14 local defense force officers and 11 Gacaca court judges plus car and motor drivers, private security officers, eight local leaders at sector level, cleaners as well as officers at Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority and Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA).
The convicted persons were held for taking or giving bribes of Rwf2, 000 up to Rwf5 million, something that former education minister and ruling party MP Emmanuel Mudidi referred to as conviction of "small fish".
"Should we assume that there is no corruption in the highest levels of our leadership," Mudidi asked.
Cyanzayire defended her office saying that it is easier to detect corruption in the masses and low levels of the local administration than it is in upper levels of the government.
"Many of them (ordinary persons) are caught red handed, while others are reported by the people they are trying to bribe," she said,"But those involved in big corruption cases are difficult to detect because most of the time the two parties have a huge interest in the deal."
Cyanzayire says cases where people have reported cases involving big sums of money are rare and her biggest challenge is to look for ways of detecting the big cases.
The ombudsman's office believes that the new whistleblower law will make an impact.
The law states that any entity that receives disclosures must establish reliable mechanisms designed to protect whistleblowers, including their secret reception and the filing of disclosures by using a security code.
According to the law, a file of disclosures received shall bear a security code corresponding to a registered whistleblower.
Article 16 of the law says an employee or any other person is not liable, civically, criminally or under administrative process, for making public interest disclosure when he or she did it in a good faith.
A whistleblower may be summoned before justice, confidentially, using a security code and should be interrogated in camera without cross-examination.
Patrick Bigabo, a veteran investigative journalist says the law will go a long way in netting culprits involved in huge corruption scandals.
He says although all Transparency International indices show that Rwanda has some of the lowest levels of corruption in the world, "it doesn't mean that the stolen money ranges from only Rwf0.2million to 5million".
"There are huge sums stolen, people fear to report them due to repercussions from the suspects," says Bigabo. He says the whistleblowers law reduces that fear.
Do the 'Big Fish' get away with corruption?
About 75 senior government officials have been prosecuted and convicted of embezzling Rwf383million, according to the list.
These include the former governor of Easter Province and State Minister for Education Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, the former director of the National Institute of Statistics Louis Munyakazi, the former Executive secretary of the Eastern Province Charles Gasana, and the former permanent secretary in the ministry of Infrastructure Vincent Gatwabuyenge.
In September, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of local government Cyrille Turatsinze appeared in court for allegedly soliciting a bribe of Rwf2million from a business man, but he was acquitted.
Another PS in the ministry of education, Justin Nsengimana, was accused of a similar crime and fled the country.
The prosecution recently announced it had brought 342 public officials to court for causing massive financial losses to the government through fraud, illegal awarding of tenders and mismanagement of public assets, between 2007 and 2010.
Rwanda continues to lead the region as the least corrupt country according to the 2012 East African Bribery Index.
In the aggregate index, which combines the likelihood, prevalence, impact of bribery, share of bribe, and the average amount into one indicator scaled from 0 for best and 100 for worst score, Rwanda's index was 2.5%. Uganda registered worst index at 40.7%, Burundi had 18.8% and Kenya and Tanzania have 29.5% and 39.1% respectively.
In 2011, Transparency International also found Rwanda to be the fourth least corrupt country in Africa and 47th in the world on the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).