MPs visit stalled Government projects ahead of PAC hearings

Obadiah Biraro, the Auditor General makes a presentation. File.

Members of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Lower Chamber of Parliament have begun a countrywide tour to inspect what went wrong in the implementation of several government projects that have either stalled or failed.

The two-week fact-finding mission that started early this week, will see the legislators visit projects that were described in the Auditor General’s report for the fiscal year 2017/18 as delayed, abandoned, or failed,  as well as instances where project assets were completed but remain idle.

MP Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, who chairs the committee, told The New Times on Wednesday that the tour will help conduct a parliamentary public hearings in September at which several government officials will be asked to explain what went wrong.

As part of the on-going tour, projects with issues will be visited in 22 districts across the country.

“Most of the projects are about infrastructure; such as roads, cross-border markets, idle assets that aren’t in use, and water supply lines,” Ngabitsinze said.

He added that a deep analysis will be conducted during the visits to check whether the projects in question served their intended purposes to improve people’s lives or failed completely.

“What we are mainly focusing on during this assessment is value for money. In some institutions such as districts, improvements have been made on preparing their financial statements but they still have issues with value for money compliance and we need to take strong measures,” he said.

The Auditor General, Obadiah Biraro, has said in his report for the fiscal year 2017-2018, which ended on June 30, 2018, that apart from cases of irregular expenditure of public funds, issues of delayed and abandoned contracts, stalled projects, as well as idle public assets continued to be among the major faults in the country’s public financial management.

Other challenges were in failure by public institutions to recover advance payment and performance securities as well as non-compliance with taxation laws.

On irregular public expenditure, the AG indicated that public funds amounting to over Rwf5.6 billion were either wasted or swindled in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The irregular expenditures were in the form of unsupported expenditure, partially supported expenditure, wasteful expenditure, unauthorised expenditure and funds diverted or fraudulently utilised.

Biraro presented his report to Parliament in April, after auditing 173 public entities and projects during the period from May 2018 to 20 April 2019.

They comprise 142 budget agencies like ministries or districts and special projects, five Government Business Enterprises and 26 District Hospitals.

The audits were made on expenditures representing 86.6 per cent of the national budget, which is a slightly bigger coverage in comparison to previous year’s audits that covered 86.4 per cent of budget.

As usual, the focus for the AG’s audits in 2018 was on high risk entities and those that implement programmes that impact on the lives of many Rwandan citizens.

An example of those entities are the three biggest Government Business Entreprises (GBEs) that include energy giant REG Holding (which comprises EUCL and EDCL), the pension body RSSB, and the water and sanitation body WASAC.

The audits also targeted nine government boards whose mandates impact citizens’ lives most, such as the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) among others.

After reviewing the report and conducting related public hearings at the committee level, PAC will present its feedback to Parliament for further consideration.