Government has allocated Rwf40 billion under the 2021/2022 national budget in a bid to settle arrears owed to various entities.
On Tuesday, June 22, the joint Plenary Sitting of the Parliament adopted the relevance of the 2021/2022 Rwf3,807 billion national budget bill, which was presented by Uzziel Ndagijimana, Minister for Finance and Economic Planning.
The committee started scrutinising the national budget bill Wednesday, June 23. After that, it will submit its report to Parliament before its Plenary Sitting votes the bill into law to approve the budget.
The New Times understands that the arrears that the government owes in different cases are more than the money allocated.
However, that will contribute to addressing the issue.
Some of the arrears that were exposed during the budget hearings held in May this year include an estimated Rwf17 billion owed to residents in expropriation compensations to pave the way for different infrastructure projects, Rwf7.1 billion unsettled for the construction of Bugesera, Ngoma and Nyagatare stadiums in Eastern Province, and Rwf3.3 billion that the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) owes to contractors for completed agriculture-related works.
Others are over Rwf21 billion owed for the construction of classrooms in 2020/2021, Rwf25 billion owed by the community-based health insurance scheme - commonly known as Mutuelles de Santé - to various health facilities for the medical services they offered to its members, and over Rwf7 billion outstanding remunerations of former Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA).
MP Albert Ruhakana said that arrears are accumulated over time, calling for strategies to solve the issue, such as through paying Government suppliers and contractors on due course.
"It has been realised that the arrears are in expropriation, and contractors who were not paid for the services they provided or work they did [to public entities] such as the supply of fertilisers and seeds, as well as setting up infrastructures among others," he said.
Omar Munyaneza, the Chairperson of the Committee on National Budget and Patrimony, told The New Times that settling arrears is one of the aspects that were given priority in the budget bill as it was also among the recommendations of MPs.
He said that the arrears in question are over Rwf40 billion, but indicated that they were considered in the budget, adding that the Government was still doing an inventory so as to clear all of them such as during the budget revision.
"There are contractors who supplied fertilisers and seeds but they are still owed money. The budget bill has allocated funds for paying such arrears," he said, indicating that the same applies to people who offered classroom construction services but were not paid.
Minister Ndagijimana said that the Government does not want arrears to accrue over time.
"The first thing is to allocate the needed funds, but also ensure that the works done be paid on time," he indicated, underscoring that there is collaboration between all concerned entities to address the issue going forward.
WASAC to clear the arrears owed to former EWSA staff
An estimated 1,700 former staff members of the now-defunct Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) were owed Rwf11 billion in total,https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/pay-ex-utility-employees-their-due-benefits-mps according to data from officials.
The affected employees were laid off in July 2014 during restructuring which saw the parastatal split into two independent agencies; Rwanda Energy Group Ltd (REG), and Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC).
The employees include 900 for what is currently REG who were owed more than Rwf5.4 billion, and about 800 for WASAC owed some Rwf6 billion.
During budget hearing held mid-May, WASAC told the Parliamentary Committee on National Budget and Patrimony that Rwf1.2 billion was paid, indicating that the remaining batch - which is Rwf5 billion - had been provided in the 2021/2022 budget.
Jordi-Michel Musoni, President of Energy, Water, and Sanitation Workers Union -SYPELGAZ told The New Times that so far, of out an estimated Rwf11 billion in arrears owed to employees of former EWSA, about Rwf3.2 billion - consisting of Rwf2 billion for REG and Rwf1.2 billion for WASAC - has been paid in the current fiscal year which will come to an end on June 30.
Musoni said that if the money is paid earlier in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, it will be a relief for the former staff, and would make the concerned parties be on good terms as it that could put an end to court cases that were filed by some who could not put up with the delays.
"If all the arrears are paid in the first trimester of 2021/2022, it would be good as it can help the concerned former staff get means to improve their livelihoods, especially during this Covid-19 period which has adversely affecting living conditions," he said.