25 January 2013

Rwanda: Lawmakers Debate Leadership Code

Spouses and children of leaders will be allowed to do business with government if amendments proposed by government in the draft organic law modifying the organic law of 2008 on the leadership code of conduct are passed.

Modification was thus necessitated by three reasons: eliminating ambiguities and merging some provisions aimed at making them comprehensible and more clear; filling gaps; and adapting the law to the current situation.

MPs on the Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony started scrutinising the Bill on Wednesday.

Articles 14 and 15 of the 2008 law prohibit leaders, their spouses and children from engaging in commercial activities with government such as competing for public tenders. The amendments seek to resolve such defects.

"This prohibition retards investment and infringes on their rights in case they were practicing or intending to practice commercial activities prior to the appointments," reads part of the explanatory note.

Article 17 also prohibits leaders from taking up leadership positions in associations and non-governmental organisations.

The new bill seeks to modify this article as well.

Four articles:

The review is aimed at removing ambiguities in the present law, among other things.

During the second Committee session, yesterday, the Minister in the President's Office, Venantie Tugireyezu, said what government and other stakeholders want is to provide standards and guidelines to be adhered to by high ranking and senior officials to have leaders of integrity who are exemplary and trusted by the population.

Tugireyezu explained that, in the course of application, some of the provisions were ambiguous, outdated and difficult to be evaluated or implemented.

The new draft organic law empowers institutions to set up their own rules, while complying with general guidelines to be set up by the Office of the Ombudsman. The law shall apply to heads of public institutions, government services and institutions governed by statutes, or people holding political offices.

MP Abbas Mukama, the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, and other lawmakers, including Connie Bwiza Sekamana and Faith Mukakalisa, stressed the need for clarity on "the limits" in terms of leaders affected by the law.

Debate continues, among others, on whether the Village chief should be included, as MPs argue that it is the grass roots administrative level leaders that interact most with the populace.

High ranking leaders include the President of the Republic, Senate President, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, President of the Supreme Court, and the Premier. Senior officials include cabinet ministers, MPs, judges of the Supreme Court, among others.

Speaking to The New Times, in an interview, the mayors for Kicukiro and Gasabo districts, Paul Jules Ndamage and Willy Ndizeye respectively, welcomed the development. They stressed that a leader's spouse or child happened to be in business should not be barred.

According to Ndizeye, if procurement laws are not flouted, there is no reason why a leader's spouse or children should be barred from public tenders.

Ndizeye said: "By the way, I don't think we should be proud of having leaders who are poor. If my wife was active and the family progresses, this can allow me to concentrate enough on the other leadership responsibilities I am entrusted with."

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