The New Times (Kigali)

27 March 2014

Rwanda: Judge Loses Verdict in Computer Glitch

The ruling in the alleged embezzlement case involving church officials who allegedly mismanaged over Rwf3bn meant for orphans has taken a new twist. The Nyarugenge Court of Lower Instance announced that a technological hitch led to the erasing of the whole verdict a judge had prepared.

According to the Judge, Lawrence Nyirankuriza, the computer where she had saved the verdict in a case involving a local NGO- Italia Solidale- crashed and lost all the data There was an eerie of silence from the side of Italia Solidale beneficiaries who had turned up in big numbers for the long-awaited judgment.

“Everything had been done and I had expected to give the final word on this case today. But my computer where I had kept my verdict got some technical problem,” the judge announced. “I even brought technicians to retrieve the document but in vain. I am now rewriting the verdict.” The new date of the ruling is now set for August 21.

Italia Solidale, a Church-afflicted NGO was set up in 1997. Years later, the NGO's beneficiaries accused those in charge of allegedly using orphans as a means of raising billions of francs for their own enrichment.

In 2006, guardians of the orphans petitioned the Supreme Court to institute an independent audit into the alleged scam. According to an audit report, about Rwf 3billion meant for the orphans was unaccounted for. The money had been sent to help over 2000 orphans left vulnerable by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The funds were sent between 1998 -2003.

In 2006, police arrested Gerald Ndamage and Faustin Ngendahayo — at that time administrators of Rwanda Italia Solidale — and dragged them to court, but they were later released provisionally pending investigations into their case.

Both Ngendahayo and Ndamage have pleaded not guilty. Father Innocent Consolateur of St Famille parish in Kigali is also arraigned before the city court for allegedly not accounting for over Rwf400m.

According to the charge sheet, the priest is accused of abuse of trust while the duo is accused of ethnic prejudice.

Basing on an audit that was carried out on the orders of the Supreme Court, Rwf 400m remains unaccounted for from the Rwf 3 billion donated by Italian church-affiliated NGO, Italia Solidale in a period of three years. Last year, an audit by the Supreme Court revealed that Rwf 3bn was received from Italy but there was little to show for it.

The Supreme Court carried out the audit after the beneficiaries complained that the funds were being spent on children from well-do-to families, instead of orphans.

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