Rwanda: PAC Summons Eight Cabinet Ministers

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has summoned eight cabinet ministers who will this month appear to shed light on the recommendations that were issued after the review of the Auditor General's reports spanning four years, The New Times has learnt.

Speaking exclusively to this publication, the Chairperson of PAC, Valens Muhakwa, said that the Ministers will shed light on the recommendations made by the lower chamber of parliament for the 2014/2015; 2015/2016; 2016/2017; and 2017/2018 Auditor General's reports.

The summoned Ministers include the one of education, agriculture, finance and economic planning, justice, health, public service and labour, infrastructure and the one in charge of cabinet affairs.

Muhakwa said that these sessions are normal and part of PAC's responsibilities as a commission.

"We are given a report by the Prime Minister and we cross check to see which recommendations were worked on fully, which ones were worked on partially or others that were not worked on at all. We will be looking into the latter two," he said.

Queries to expect

For instance, the Ministry of Infrastructure will be flanked by the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) and the Rwanda Electricity Group (REG) to shed light on the recommendation made by parliament requesting for the biogas program to be re-drafted because it was not studied well. The Ministry and its entities had up to April 2020 to come up with a new plan and Members of PAC will be expecting an update on where it stands today.

On her part, the Minister in Charge of Cabinet Affairs will be required to provide an update about a recommendation made from the 2015/2016 Auditor General's Report that requested that land should only be taxed upon first use to avoid double taxation. Although this Ministry gave a response to this, the committee found it unsatisfactory and will be seeking a better explanation.

Prosecuting the crime

The issue of what happens after the Auditor General has publicly released his report every year has a matter of debate. However, the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) says that it has taken 373 people to court over the course of the last nine months over embezzlement and other corruption related crimes.

Official numbers obtained exclusively by The New Times, the number is part of embezzlement and corruption-related offences involving 1,253 (992 male and 261 female) received by this office between July 2020 and March 2021.

However, while 373 cases were filed with courts, 218 were closed and 79 were still pending by the end of March this year.

Action taken on AG report

NPPA also handled cases related to the 2017-18 Auditor General's report. According to the figures, prosecution handled 92 files related to this report and some Rwf537m lost in embezzlement was returned before some of the cases went to trial.

While presenting his report to Parliament for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2018, the Auditor General Obadiah Biraro said that an estimated Rwf5.6billion had either been wasted or swindled between 2017 and 2018.

At the time, Biraro said that this observation was made based on his audits there were cross-cutting findings of irregular expenditure in the form of unsupported expenditure, partially supported expenditure, wasteful expenditure, unauthorised expenditure and funds diverted or fraudulently utilised.

NPPA also looked into issues raised by Biraro in his 2018-19 report. Although prosecution has received 95 files, it has filed 36 with courts of law while 59 are still pending.

Prosecution was also able to recover Rwf101m before some of the cases made it to court.

Finding solutions

What can be done to fix the recurring issue of corruption and embezzlement?

The Auditor General Obadiah Biraro says that that leadership should come with accountability and those trusted with the task to disburse public funds should be stripped of these responsibilities and tasked to refund the monies they lost.

"You have to have enforcement. There are rules and if you go against them, you should face the consequences. There is no way out of this other than prosecution. There is no shortcut," he said.

In July last year, the Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye, that the government is pursuing about Rwf11bn that it hopes to recoup from cases that it won in corruption and public funds mismanagement-related cases,

"There was a culture and mentality of Rwandans not to feel the need to pay when they owe the government. We decided that this cannot go on and compiled a list of all those that owe the government money," he said.

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