Rwanda: Justice Minister Vows to Crack Down on Corrupt Officials

The Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, has said that no one will be spared in the quest for accountability.

He issued the warning, Wednesday, while addressing the media at the Ministry's headquarters in Kigali.

"We should get used to the fact that leaders are summoned by investigators and questioned or even imprisoned... this is because of the high regard in which this government holds accountability," Busingye said.

Building on recent calls for accountability made by President Paul Kagame to the Expanded National Executive Committee of the ruling party, RPF-Inkotanyi, Busingye said that accountability is a foundational value on which the party is built and must be embraced by all leaders.

"Leadership is a mission people are entrusted with to go and deliver; a leader must fight all temptations that come with trappings of power or else the accountability mechanisms in place will get them," the Minister added.

Busingye further disclosed that the government is putting more priority on fighting financial crimes because of the impact they have on the economy and the wellbeing of the Rwandan people.

Journalists during the news conference with Justice minister Johnston Busingye in Kigali on Wednesday, July 8. Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva.

He cited corruption, embezzlement of public funds, tax evasion, money laundering, among other financial malpractices, as crimes that slow the country's development if unchecked.

Rwf9 billion worth of fertilisers goes missing

Meanwhile, at least nine people are in custody in connection to the swindling of money amounting to Rwf9 billion that was meant for fertilisers for farmers across the country.

They are accused of embezzling money in a project that ran between 2009 and 2013 under the agriculture ministry, which was aimed at boosting food production in the country, by helping farmers to access fertilisers at subsidised prices.

Through the project, farmers were supposed to get fertilisers and only pay 40 per cent of its cost, while the government would meet the remaining 60 percent.

The work to distribute the fertilisers was entrusted to a group of entrepreneurs, who were also given the mandate to collect the percentage that was to be paid by the farmers.

According to information from Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), these entrepreneurs made up lists of ghost beneficiaries and on top of that, did not remit collections from the farmers.

Available information indicates that the quantity of fertilisers they claimed to have distributed was far less than what was actually given out to farmers.

"They fabricated lists of beneficiary farmers and even those (farmers) that benefited and paid their part, the entrepreneurs never remitted the money they were paid to government coffers," said Dominique Bahorera, the acting RIB spokesperson.

Among those in custody include local businessman Alfred Nkubiri, who owns a company called ENAS, a major agri-dealer in the country.

In total, the case has 12 people; nine are in custody, while three have been released but still have criminal liability and will most likely be prosecuted, according to Bahorera.

Others in custody are; Evariste Nsengiyumva, Elias Uzabukiriho, Amon Nsengiyumva, Thadee Nibishaka, Laurent Rugerinyange, Faustin Uwingabo, Evariste Rukumba and Dieudonne Itengeri.

He said that each is alleged to have swindled a specific amount which in total adds up to over Rwf9 billion for which they must be held accountable.

"Initially we had 20 people, all entrepreneurs, but others were found not to have criminal liability, at least according to findings we have so far, so that is how we zeroed in on the 12."

Asked if there are any other accomplices from the Ministry of Agriculture, Bahorera said that they have so far found no criminal liability on the officers in the ministry, saying that for many, it amounted to administrative malpractices.

According to RIB, the case delayed mainly because of the fraud in the reporting and that the subsequent audit was done after the project came to an end.

"We have sent all these files to prosecution," said the RIB spokesperson.

This is the second time Nkubiri is being arrested on similar but separate charges.

In 2016, he was arrested on charges of fraud in another tender his company had won from the government to supply 730 metric tonnes of fertilisers to farmers in different parts of the country.

Kacyiru Primary Court, where Nkubiri appeared with a one Innocent Habimana, who was one of his employees, had set them free during a preliminary hearing, saying that there was not enough evidence incriminating the duo.

The arrest of the businessmen is the latest crackdown on people abusing public property and other financial-related crimes, a wave that has not spared senior government officials.

Last week, Pierre-Damien Habumuremyi was arrested for alleged financial crimes that include issuing bounced cheques and breach of trust on his part while transacting on behalf of Christian University of Rwanda which he owns.

Habumuremyi, who is the Chairperson of the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO), is also a former Prime Minister and before that served as Minister of Education.

He reportedly raked up debts that are now said to be over Rwf1.5 billion.

The university, which has two campuses, has since been closed by the Ministry of Education.

Several other senior officials are being investigated for different crimes.

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