MPs call for stern action on Ombudsman Report

Media ranked least corrupt institution PARLIAMENT - Members of both Chambers of Parliament have called for stern measures to be taken against ministries, government institutions and individuals in public service that were exposed by the 2008 Ombudsman Report. The lawmakers expressed this yesterday, following presentation of the annual report before a joint parliamentary session by government Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara.  The lawmakers argued that despite government efforts to curtail corruption within its organs, the vice has continued to manifest itself within different institutions, calling for immediate action on the cited individuals and organs.
The Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara  talks to reporters after  presenting his report to Parliament yesterday. (Photo J Mbanda)
The Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara talks to reporters after presenting his report to Parliament yesterday. (Photo J Mbanda)

Media ranked least corrupt institution

PARLIAMENT - Members of both Chambers of Parliament have called for stern measures to be taken against ministries, government institutions and individuals in public service that were exposed by the 2008 Ombudsman Report.

The lawmakers expressed this yesterday, following presentation of the annual report before a joint parliamentary session by government Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara.

The lawmakers argued that despite government efforts to curtail corruption within its organs, the vice has continued to manifest itself within different institutions, calling for immediate action on the cited individuals and organs.

Majority of the lawmakers questioned the Ombudsman on whether there is an effective follow-up mechanism to ensure that institutions and individuals implicated in the report dully face the law, or if they get away with it.

“We need to ensure that at least the institutions and people exposed by the report for mismanaging public funds are dully charged and punished, otherwise this whole initiative would mean nothing,” said Abbas Mukama, of the Lower Chamber, citing some officials and institutions named in the last report but have since not been dealt with.

Among other things, the legislators were irked by the continued irregularities indicated in the 2008 Ombudsman’s report and put the government trustee Tito Rutaremara to task, to explain as to why the issue has prolonged for years.

MP Gabriel Semasaka expressed worry about the many tender irregularities mentioned in the report saying that there should be a way of addressing the predicament.

“This is very worrying and I would like the Ombudsman to tell us what happens after he produces these reports that indicate mass irregularities in awarding tenders at all levels of government,” Semasaka said.

MP Adolphe Bazatoha chipped in saying that for the last six years, issues to do with tender irregularities have featured in several reports presented before the parliament.

“The government has hired international experts to train people in tender awarding; there have been a number of initiatives to ensure that the processes is done smoothly, I am actually informed that due to the persistent irregularities, donors’ funds tend not be used and sent back, can you tell us what exactly is behind this problem,” Bazatoha questioned the government Tsar.

Several other MPs questioned if the ombudsman has no authority to take action.

In defence, Rutaremara, himself a former parliamentarian, firmly told the lawmakers that they should as well take up the initiative of solving the problem.

“This is not as complex as you may think, the tender irregularities mentioned in the report do not necessarily mean that there was embezzlement, it is an issue of procedures though some officials hide behind this problem of ignorance of procedures to embezzle money,” said Rutaremara.

According to the report, all ministries and government parastatals that were investigated had records of poor tendering procedures.

The report says it issued out 4,929 forms for wealth declaration and received a 91 percent response. 451 government officials failed to return their forms.

The highest number of undeclared wealth was from the Ministry of Defence (64), Rwanda Revenue Authority (45) and Electrogaz (28). These institutions also had the biggest number of officials supposed to declare their assets.

MPs questioned as to why those officials had not declared their wealth, and Rutaremara said that some of those like soldiers had taken a long leave from work and were serving in other missions out of the country.

He however added that RRA is one of the institutions that have been very cooperative with him in terms of wealth declaration.

Report Analysis

Meanwhile, the lawmakers requested the Ombudsman to come up with a policy of report comparison analysis so that the level of corruption can easily be measure.

“Rwandans also need to know the cost of corruption vis-à-vis government revenues,” advised Senator Emmanuel Karemera.

The report puts Traffic Police ahead of others, as the most corrupt institution, scoring a staggering 60.1 percent. Judiciary is the second most corrupt institution at 49.9 %, land officials coming third with 45.5%, Customs at 4th with 40.2.

The media is the least corrupt with 9.3 percent followed by religious groups 14.4, Non-Governmental Organizations with 19.9 %, Health Institutions with 21.7 Percent with the Parliament rounding up the top 5 least corrupt institutions with 21.7%.

Notable in the report is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was found not to be depositing remittances of its employees to the Social Security Fund, prompting MP’s to question where the money goes since it is deducted.

Rutaremara told the lawmakers that his powers are limited to just unearthing irregularities in most cases, and forward files that require further action to the National Public Prosecutions Authority.

He challenged MP’s to use their powers and summon the heads of ministries and institutions that were cited in the report.
 
Highlights of the report

 Most corrupt institutions: Traffic police, judicial officials, Land officials, Customs officials.

• Top corrupt officials at the local government: Cell leaders, Gacaca judges, Local defence forces, Local mediators (Abunzi).

• 462 cases related to corruption investigated, major cause of corruption is ‘moral decay’ and to some extent low salaries.

• Ministries investigated: Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs, Internal Security, Public Service, Local Government, Justice and Commerce and Trade

• Govt institutions investigated include: Ocir Café, OcirThe, Travaux d’Interets Generale (TIG), Institute de Sciences Agronomique du Rwanda (ISAR) and Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA).

• Poor tendering procedures in all the cited ministries and government parastatals.

• The Infrastructure docket criticised alongside that of Foreign Affairs for discrepancies in salary structures between staff on similar ranking.

• Government was fined Rwf 104.5 million for late payment of an advance owed to the contractor of Kicukiro-Nyamata-Mayange road.

• Foreign Affairs Ministry has never banked its staff’s remittances to SSFR since 2005.

• Wealth declaration: 4,929 forms issued, 91 percent responded, 451 officials failed to return their forms. All the top five most senior government officials declared their wealth on time, one member of the Senate failed to declare his/her wealth and five members of the lower house.

• 227 cases involving unclear accumulation of wealth during 2008 were investigated.

• The report touches on six institutions that include: the former Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN),  Ocir Café, OcirThe, Travaux d’Interets Generale (TIG), Institute de Sciences Agronomique du Rwanda (ISAR) and Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA).

Ends

 

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