It is now very costly to be corrupt in Rwanda, Clément Musangabatware, the Deputy Ombudsman in charge of preventing and fighting corruption, told The New Times in an interview on Thursday.
He said the new law on corruption has upped the government’s momentum on fighting graft.
The law, which was published on August 13, brings, among others, prevention mechanisms across all sectors; public, private, non-governmental as well as international organisations.
Unlike previously, the definition of corruption is now broad and includes embezzlement in order to fix a legal loophole in the anti-corruption effort.
Any person convicted of embezzlement, be it in public or the private sector, in a religious-based organisation or any other organisation, is liable to imprisonment for a term not less than seven years and a fine of three to five times the value of the embezzled property.
“The new law will help us [better] prevent and fight against corruption. It is a good sign of political will to eradicate corruption; fines are now higher and deterrent. It is now very costly to be corrupt in Rwanda,” Musangabatware said.
“The definition of corruption in our laws now fully complies with the United Nations Convention against Corruption. We also fixed loopholes and gaps by revisiting the others laws.”
The Convention, one of several legally binding international anti-corruption agreements, is a multilateral treaty negotiated by UN member states and ratified by Rwanda in 2006. It covers five main areas: preventive measures, criminalisation and law enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange.
New clauses on using public property for unintended purposes, influence peddling, among others, in addition to ensuring that the offence of “corruption is imprescriptible,” are now in the law.
Article 21 (non-prescription of the offence of corruption) states that the offence of corruption is imprescriptible, implying that there is no time limit for a corruption charge to be pursued.
Musangabatware said influence peddling, where people, by any means, exert influence in making decisions for their own benefit or another person’s benefit, used to attract a minimum jail term of two years but now the least an offender can expect is five years.
The law states that if the influence resulted in receiving or being promised an illegal benefit, the penalty is imprisonment for a term of more than five years but not more than seven years with a fine equivalent to five to 10 times the value of the illegal benefit.
The Ombudsman’s Office – which has two prosecutors – investigated 53 cases of corruption and related crimes in 2017/18. It found 23 to be lacking evidence while 13 were forwarded to Prosecution and 10 to the Police. Seven are still under investigation.
Marie Immaculée Ingabire, chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda (TI Rwanda), said: “We liked the new law very much”.
Ingabire said: “First, all crimes related to corruption were brought together and this now makes it easier to prosecute corrupt people. Secondly, now, no amount of time can erase a corruption case implying offenders will not evade justice because of time lapse. Third, and also very important, is that the punishments to offenders are tougher”.
Corrupt leaders to get maximum punishment
The law stipulates “aggravating circumstances” for the offence of corruption committed by a person in leadership position. Investigators, judges, and prosecutors, will face it even rougher if found corrupt.
“They will get the maximum punishment. People in leadership positions must lead by example in society. That has always been the case but there is more emphasis in the new law,” Musangabatware said.