23 September 2017

Rwanda: Govt Moves to Prevent Loss of Funds in Public Contracts

State attorneys and legal advisors have been urged to prevent loss of public funds as the government moves to recover about Rwf1 billion won in cases against those who stole, misused, or led to the abuse of public funds.

The call was made Friday during a quarterly meeting of over 100 state attorneys and legal advisors in different public institutions from across the country.

Over the last five years, the government has moved to strengthen the work of its legal advisors and lawyers to ensure that it prevents loss of public funds from both poor management of public contracts and deliberate embezzlement of public funds by officials and their accomplices in the private sector.

With only half of the Rwf2 billion that the government has won over the last five years already recovered, the government's attorneys and legal advisors are under pressure to recover the remaining funds and prevent any further losses in the future.

That's why the Ministry of Justice (MINIJUST) invited them yesterday to a coordination meeting in Kigali, which looked at how to streamline contract drafting and management in public institutions.

The Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye, told the lawyers at the meeting that they should take great care about the details in the contracts they draft because they are sometimes used by contractors to steal public funds.

"The devil is in the details as the English adage goes. You don't want to give clearance for a contract to build a hotel in a river just because you didn't read the details in the hotel construction contract," he said at the meeting.

The forum also served as a training session for participants on how to draft public contracts and best manage them during implementation of projects.

The minister urged them to always consider the rationale behind the contracts, ensure that government lawyers are the ones to draft them, and consider relevant laws while writing them and never leave the task to procurement officers and service providers.

"We want to close as many gaps as possible in the management of public contracts. Going forward we want only serious people to be managing public funds," Busingye told the participants.

MINIJUST's Permanent Secretary and Solicitor General, Isabelle Kalihangabo, agreed with the minister, emphasising that the government's legal advisors and attorneys need to help the government realise its plans by ensuring that public funds are efficiently managed.

"We cannot achieve our target of becoming a middle income economy unless public funds are well managed. Our job is not about stamping well written documents but to establish where the government is losing money and recover it," she said, urging the government's lawyers to be more diligent with their work.

Yesterday's meeting was one of the regular meetings that the ministry holds with its attorneys and legal advisors to strengthen their efforts in curbing mismanagement of public funds through thorough drafting of contracts for public works and managing them on a daily basis.

The government's 14th National Leadership Retreat held early this year recommended streamlining how government contracts with private operators are drafted and managed, a resolution that has put the government's lawyers and the justice ministry under pressure to deliver.

The Head of Legal Services Department and Principal State Attorney at the Ministry of Justice, Théophile Mbonera, told Saturday Times yesterday that state attorneys' immediate tasks was to ensure that the Rwf1 billion is recovered while preventing new cases.

"We have the responsibility to recover this money and also ensure that no more public funds are lost again," he said in an interview at the meeting.

Just about three weeks ago, President, Paul Kagame, called for different work ethics on the part of public servants during his new mandate, explicitly tasking the Ministry of Justice to move swiftly and curb any mismanagement of public resources by holding accountable those responsible.

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