Assets declaration: Ombudsman, Senate President warn against misappropriation

Public servants and officials who hide assets that they have obtained illegally will face the wrath of the law, the Ombudsman, Anastase Murekezi and Senate President, Augustin Iyamuremye have warned.

The officials said this on Monday, June 29, 2020 as the Office of the Ombudsman staff – including the Ombudsman and his two deputies submitted their asset declaration documents to the Senate.

 

Asset declarations from public servants are meant to prevent corruption, detect illicit enrichment and conflicts of interests, according to the World Bank.

 

Public servants and personnel declare their property to the Office of the Ombudsman, however the latter does so to the Senate.

 

Murekezi said that there are public servants and officials who register embezzled or misappropriated public funds in the names of their children, relatives among other tricks in an attempt to evade justice.

He said that heavy punishments await them — the culprits and their accomplices — once evidence proves them guilty.

He said that the law determining the mission, powers, organisation and functioning of the office of the ombudsman which was enacted in 2013 states that all public officials and servants who work in the management of the public resources have to declare their property every year not later than June 30 so that they get assessed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

He added that a new entrant in the public service leadership positions should declare their assets not later than a month after being taken on, and 15 days after leaving the public service.

Over 11,000 have declared assets

The Ombudsman Murekezi said that the public officials and servants who have to declare their assets amount to 13,000 this year (2020), indicating that 11,000 have already done the activity, while 1,000 others had started doing it through an online asset declaration system on Monday, June 29, 2020. 

"There are still 1,000 public officials and employees who have not yet declared their assets. We advise them to complete the process today, or latest tomorrow, on June 30,2020," he said.

Punishments await those who do not comply with the law

Murekezi pointed out that those who do not comply with the legal provision will be punished. 

He said that the punishments include written official disapproval, a reduction of a fourth (1/4) from their salary, or even dismissal from public service if deemed necessary.

"A leader should abide by the law. Be answerable to their responsibilities, and assets, and if that contradicts with the law, they get punished for it," he said 

Murekezi said that there are people who are arrested in connection with assets misappropriation and concealment of their origin by registering them in the names of other people, adding that currently, 15 are under investigation.

He explained that legal action in courts is already being sought against six of them, seven are being handled by the prosecution department of the Office of the Ombudsman, while investigation is still being considered for the two remaining cases.

He commended people who report misappropriation and corruption cases, pointing out that only about 20% report corruption crimes.

"Hidden assets are an indication that one is not able to explain their origin as provided for by the law. A person who misappropriated public funds, and the one who helped them commit such a crime [by having it registered to them], are punished equally," he said.

He indicated that penalties include five to 10 years of imprisonment, and they are dispossessed of illegal gains from embezzlement so that it becomes public assets.

"They are also subjected to paying fines worth three to five times the funds they embezzled," he said.

The assets that have to be declared include immovable properties such as land, buildings; and movable assets such as cars and livestock. 

 "What we want is both the people and leaders whose assets grow gradually in a legitimate manner. But, when one misappropriates public finances, they are impoverishing the people and committing a crime," he said.

Senate President, Iyamuremye said that by declaring their assets, the Office of the Ombudsman proves that it practices what it preaches.

"Even those Rwandans who are requested to show the origin of their assets but they are still hesitating, should do it right away. There is no point in exposing themselves to trouble stemming from lack of compliance with the law," he said.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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