The 2006 Auditor General’s Report has very bad news. Five billion, three hundred million Francs of public money was not accounted for. This amount is equal to 14 percent of the amount World Bank approved last week for Rwanda’s successful (very good news) Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy – EDPRS.
Failing to account for a certain amount of money is not as bad as otherwise having that same amount outrightly stolen. It is possible to find that the unaccounted for Frw5.3b was all put to proper use. But it is also possible to find that not a franc of it was spent appropriately.
Lack of supporting documents and financial statements renders futile the accountability effort. The main reason these are not in place is because there are not enough people in public institutions to initiate accountability procedures and manuals. Where they exist, the staff is thin and cannot be used to adhere to them in a manner backed by professional conviction.
The situation in this sector of public finance administration perfectly mirrors the national human resource picture. It is an issue of scarcity here the way it is in the media industry, health, education, agriculture and other sectors.
The big consolation is that there is no shortage of political will and resources to build capacity. Rwandans only need to contend with the reality that capacity building is a process that takes years. Nonetheless our generation shall at one time arrive at a point where the situation will be okay.
In the meantime and as building goes on, we can continue to call upon government alertness to ensure that at least less and less public money is lost through embezzlement. If little can be done for inexperienced and unskilled accountants besides counting on time, at least let the catching of real thieves intensify.
This is where the Auditor General’s Report provides some hope; that at least those responsible for stealing will be apprehended, a thing that will fight impunity. And this is partly what Rwanda’s development partners base on to continue raising their support.