28 February 2019

Rwanda: Energy Utility Commits to Rectifying Expropriation Mistakes

In a bid to curb discrepancies that arise from expropriation of citizens to pave way for development activities, Rwanda Energy Group (REG) has heeded the call from lawmakers to not begin any project before the expropriation exercise has been fully concluded.

This is expected to reduce public's complaints on arrears caused by expropriation.

The observation was made Wednesday as the chief executive of the utility company, Ron Weiss, appeared before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Budget and National Patrimony.

The meeting, which was also attended by different other bodies that are supervised by the Ministry of Infrastructure, was organised ahead of MPs' field trip around the country to assess the current implementation of plans laid out in the National Budget for the current fiscal year 2018/19.

Weiss, who backed the idea, said they had actually started implementing it.

"We have received many complaints that some people did not receive compensation for their property while some of those projects have already been completed."

He said that even follow-up becomes difficult after the projects have been completed because some of them do not have land titles and photos to show their property before they were brought down to pave way for the works by the utility body.

"It is so complicated to compensate them without any piece of evidence, it delays the process," he explained.

He said they received the same directive from the Ministry of Finance.

Weiss said that other challenges they are meeting in trying to compensate people where the projects were already completed is getting to know the real value of such property.

He said they are working with districts and other local government entities to address such issues.

"We also believe that by the end of this year, we will have paid all of those arrears. All our projects will run smoothly and citizens will get their compensation," he added.

MP Francesca Tengera said that, as they continue to clear the expropriation arrears, they should be realistic in what they ask from citizens as proof before they could be paid.

"I wonder how you can ask people in villages to provide photos of their property. They do not have cameras and even if those photos are taken, how will you prove that they were owners while you already installed there other infrastructure?" she wondered.

Though it was not immediately clear how much the utility body owes in expropriation arrears, a separate committee in November last year heard that REG owed about Rwf15 billion.

The planned field tour by the legislators, slated for March, will take them to all the 30 districts across the country where they will assess how districts are doing with the execution of budgets and whether they have any specific challenges, especially regarding the implementation of development projects.

"You have to focus on jointly allocated projects which will be executed in partnership with districts. Soon, we will be visiting them. We will check whether there are any issues that need to be addressed going forward with budget execution as we go ahead with future budget planning," said MP Omar Munyaneza, the chairperson of the committee.

The committee and officials also discussed different projects to be executed this year.

They include rehabilitation of several roads, construction of feeder roads, installation of street lights on different roads, start of Nzove-Ntore pipeline among others.

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