Govt has stepped up efforts to recover lost public funds, Busingye reassures MPs

Minister Busingye speaks at Parliament on Wednesday. / Sam Ngendahimana.

The Government will continue to devise measures to recover public funds lost as a result of embezzlement, administrative errors, or contractors’ failure to honour their obligations, the Minister for Justice has said.

Johnston Busingye made the pledge Wednesday while appearing in the Lower House to respond to questions raised by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after its analysis of the Auditor General (AG)’s report for 2015/16.

The minister said that though the Government has already recovered Rwf1.8 billion for cases it won against those that diverted public funds since 2014, over Rwf1.7 billion from the cases won remain unrecovered and efforts are underway to make it happen.

“We have strengthened our cooperation with other institutions with big data so they can help us in our quest to track down those who owe money to the Government and compel them to pay,” he said, giving the example of immigration and banks.

The minister said that new measures will continue to be devised to compel those who owe Government money to pay it back, indicating that some of the services such as travel, access to loans, or buying certain goods using credit cards could be suspended for such defaulters.

“There are many cases that were won by the Government but are not yet executed as a result of old mentality that the Government never goes after people to recover its money. But that is changing and, since 2014, we have been sensitising those who owe money to the Government to pay up,” he said.

Between 2013/14 and 2015/16 financial years, 98 contracts, worth Rwf95.67 billion, were either abandoned or significantly delayed, according to the AG’s report 2015/16.

Some 24 of contracts, worth Rwf13.39 billion, were abandoned and contractors disappeared after receiving payments amounting to Rwf5.62 billion.

The abandoned contracts were mostly in the areas of infrastructure, including water, energy and roads, health, and agriculture.

Government’s attorneys and legal advisors have stepped up recovery efforts, including suing those who failed to execute their contracts, public servants who made administrative errors that caused the loss of public funds, as well as suspects of public funds embezzlement, he said.

Busingye also told Parliament that measures have been taken to prevent future losses of public funds such as working closely with the AG’s office in order to get timely alerts on abuse of public funds and helping the Government’s legal advisors and budget managers to design good contracts before issuing tenders to contractors.

“We have started working with the AG so that judicial institutions can be alerted as soon as he finds any signs of crime without waiting for the final report to be done and submitted to Parliament,” Busingye said.

He said that more efforts will be undertaken to ensure that the conception of contracts for public works is accurate because most of the failures to execute contracts start at their conception stage.

“Problems in the execution of contracts are based on poor conception of the contracts,” he said.

Several MPs welcomed the Government’s measures to recover lost public funds and encouraged the minister to fast-track implementation.

“I am happy about the measures taken and I think a lot will be addressed once they are well implemented,” said MP Henriette Mukamurangwa Sebera.

MP Théogène Munyangeyo agreed, saying that the measures taken so far have been changing a lot and suggested that more innovations are needed in this area.

“The measures are good and they show us where we are coming from but can we make some changes on the process to offer tenders? Can we distinguish those who prepare the tender from those who offer it?” he suggested.

MP John Ruku-Rwabyoma also welcomed the Government’s efforts in recovering lost public funds and called for early efforts to teach values about professional ethics needed for proper management of public affairs and resources.

“It’s never too late and you should keep up the good work. We should do more to promote good ethics among Rwandans right from a tender age,” he told the minister.

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