Experts weigh in on the exodus of local govt leaders

The Chairperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza. File.

More than 16 district officials had either stepped down or fired by the time we went to press, as the exodus in local government administration deepened amidst allegations of incompetence and corruption among others.

The exodus, which Anastase Shyaka, the Local Government minister, attributed to accountability deficits, failure to respond to citizens’ needs and inefficiency in service delivery, unfolded on Monday.

The Chairperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza, said the resignations risk derailing development as new leaders might take time to settle in.

But, he noted, the reasons now being given for resignation represent a positive development.

“Now, no one is hiding behind ‘personal reasons’ because there are Imihigo (performance contracts) that they have set. Once one has not managed to achieve the set targets, you cannot say that you are resigning for personal reasons. It is good that they acknowledge their weaknesses,” Nkurunziza said.

Imihigo, were introduced in 2006 to ensure effective leadership and accountability at all levels.

It is a practice where leaders set targets and pledge to deliver within a specific period of time. When leaders fail to deliver on their targets, they take responsibility. But they are recognised once they achieve.

Nkurunziza said it has turned out that District Councils can make district leaders quit, or lose confidence in them.

“It is the Councils that are in charge of overseeing the Executives [Executive Committee]. So, they should be more active, push for delivery and hold mayors accountable,” he said.

Going forward, Nkurunziza said, the Councils should improve their interactions with the citizens they represent so that the latter know what is going on with the executive committees.

 “Because, now, there are people who think that their Mayors were diligent workers, and that is why some got surprised [about the quitting of such leaders] as they do not have information about their Mayors’ performance,” he said.

Nkurunziza also warned that the citizens should be more cautious during elections and vote for competent leaders, especially in the District Council.

The ongoing mass resignations of local government officials come a few weeks after the Government called off the signing of the 2019/2020 performance contracts at the last minute.

 Alphonse Munyentwari, the Governor of the Western Province, told The New Times that the cause of the exits is simply what the departing officials themselves admitted.

“And those exiting are not elected officials only as there are also staffers, including District Executive Secretaries, that monitor project implementation,” he explained.

Asked why it has happened suddenly, and in one phase – like it happened in the past – the governor noted that “that should not be the question” because even if the departures happened at once, everyone is answerable for their own tasks.

“The question would be about each individual’s grounds [for resignation] and how the issues raised can best be sorted out; how people can attain development goals and targets better and faster.

 “I think everything starts right from planning. This is why even the performance contracts need to be properly refined and designed in a manner that really responds to citizens’ issues.”

 The Districts’ Councils behind the leaders’ exits, he explained, usually get quarterly reports on the basis of which they evaluate developments in a district.

 “The Districts’ Councils also need to up their effort in examining issues and advising people on what ought to be done right rather than just receiving resignation letters. They [Districts’ Councils] are also people elected to be an eye of the public and, as you know, some of the people who have resigned are actually councilors.”

 Officials at the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) noted that their regular reports, may not have neccessarily been the basis for the ongoing exits.

“This may not be based on Imihigo evaluation by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda. The results are not yet out,” a senior official at NISR said.