The Chief Ombudsman, Madeleine Nirere, has deplored the issue of citizens incurring heavy bailiff fees over cases that attract little money in penalties. She said this on Wednesday, October 26, while presenting the Annual Report 2021-2022 of Office of the Ombudsman and Action Plan of 2022-2023 to the Parliament of Rwanda (both Chambers). According to the report, one of the major issues identified in 15 districts that were inspected by the office, is that cases that some properties involved in litigation have small value, whose judgements are executed by professional bailiffs, face higher fees than the court award. In court, when a person commits an offense, and is expected to pay a certain amount of money as fine, a bailiff is expected to step in in case that settlement is not respected and on time. A professional bailiff would charge Rwf500,000 to execute a judgement where the penalty is as low as Rwf25,000. This situation, the report said, “leaves the affected resident in poverty because of selling (auctioning) his/her property to meet the bailiff’s charges.” Nirere said that there is a case where “we realised that a resident’s house and two plots of land were sold, yet the money they owed was only Rwf25,000.” Much as the resident who lost the case is in the wrong as they did not pay the due amount on time, Nirere suggested that they should not be subjected to ‘excessive’ payments. “But, you find that if a person has to pay Rwf25,000, owns a farm and a house, the bailiff seizes and auctions all of them so that they get their fee of Rwf500,000, and the Rwf25,000 is given to the person to whom the money is due [who won the case],” she said. She told legislators that the Office of the Ombudsman was discussing the issue with other institutions so that it gets addressed. “We think that the [judgements of] cases that involve small value, that is less than Rwf500,000, should not be executed by professional bailiffs, rather by non-professional bailiffs [who will not require such a pay],” she said. Non-professional bailiffs are public civil servants including Executive Secretaries of the District, Executive Secretary of the Sector, Executive Secretary of the Cell; and Deputy Coordinators of Access to Just Bureaus. Meanwhile, other issues in the report include the recurrent problems including land disputes and related (court) cases, and residents who are dissatisfied with their judgments. There was also the concern of residents whose property was expropriated to pave the way for infrastructure projects such as roads, electricity and water networks, but they had not yet been compensated. Again, there was the issue of contractors who employ residents but they do not pay them. Overall, the Office of the Ombudsman said it received 1,603 complaints from residents (over injustice) in the financial year under review, of which 75 per cent were solved. Land disputes continued to dominate the reported complaints, with 462 cases or 28.8 per cent of the total.