Govt lays out plan to recover Rwf7.3 billion from convicts

Théophile Mbonera, Head of the Legal Services Department at the Ministry of Justice, is optimistic the new approaches will boost government to recover lost funds. File.

The government has intensified efforts to recover Rwf7.3 billion still owed by people who were convicted of different crimes over the last 24 years.

In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Théophile Mbonera, who heads the legal services department at the Ministry of Justice, said that new measures in recovering the funds are giving hope that the money could be recovered faster than it used to be.

Over the last 24 years, the Government has been able to recover only Rwf2 billion from citizens who lost different cases to the government, including those related to corruption and embezzlement crimes.

Mbonera said the Government is not ready to give up on the fight.

“The ministry regularly sends information to different government institutions about cases that they won and reminds them to follow up on recovery,” he said in the interview held at his office in Kigali yesterday.

The debt was accumulated mainly from court fines for cases in which people were convicted of crimes that range from corruption to embezzlement among other crimes.

Embezzlement accounts for the lion’s share, claiming over Rwf6.3 billion out of the total sum owed to the Government by convicted individuals.

It is not yet clear how much could be successfully recovered.

 “We are still compiling a report in order to identify how much money can be recovered and cases whose judgements are not enforceable,” Mbonera said, explaining that in some cases hope is fading.

“There are judgements in which our bailiffs have totally failed to recover the money involved because debtors have no money,” he said.

But the official said that efforts in recovering all the funds won in different cases will be continued.

The measures include triggering the newly revised law which made it possible for bailiffs to earn more than Rwf500,000 from their recovery services as well as working more closely with institutions like the National Identification Agency (NIDA), the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB), and the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration to intensify the hunt for debtors.

Unlike in the period before 2017, the year when the new law for bailiffs was enacted, now bailiffs can get five per cent of the money recovered on behalf of the Government. In the past, their earning was capped at Rwf500,000 from the recovery service.

Mbonera said the ministry has also entered into partnerships with different media organisations to ensure that bailiffs’ adverts about auctions in such cases where citizens owe money to the Government are run and the money for advertising services is paid after the auction is done.

“We will continue to make efforts to ensure that this money is recovered; the ministry will continue to follow up on these debts and ensure that any challenges that make it hard to recover government funds are eliminated,” the official said.

He also urged every institution of the government that won court cases to closely follow up and recover the money.

“The institutions have the obligation to recover the money in cases they won. Leaders of those institutions, including districts and ministries, have the obligation to recover this money and they should try as much as possible to do it,” he said.

One of the strategies for recovery is that districts have already put under their performance contracts the need to recover the money and they can now go after any individual who owes money to the Government.

 “When the Government loses a case, it pays. Rwandans should also understand that they should pay the Government when they lose cases. We urge whoever owes money to the Government to pay up in order to prevent additional costs that come with forced execution of judgements,” he said.

The official said that there isn’t a single case in which the Government has won money that will go unenforced.

In March last year, the 15th Leadership Retreat requested the Government to strengthen strategies to fight corruption in all public and private institutions, fast-track recovery of embezzled public funds, and put in place measures for compliance with the Auditor General’s recommendations.