New law will ease fight against graft, says Ombudsman

Chief Ombudsman Anastase Murekezi speaks at parliament yesteday. Emmanuel Kwizera.

A new law on the fight against corruption, which was gazetted last week, is the best anti-graft legislation the country has ever had and will make a big difference in the fight against corruption, the Chief Ombudsman said yesterday.

Anastase Murekezi made the comment while addressing new Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Chamber of Deputies as he delivered a presentation on the topics of the ‘Art and Science of State Management’ and ‘Citizenship and State relationship’.

The MPs are on a week-long induction as they prepare to start their work in earnest next month after they were sworn in last week.

The Chief Ombudsman told the lawmakers that the new law against corruption will make it easier to prevent and fight the crime since it will encourage victims to report the offenders without fear and has made it possible to prosecute the crime of corruption at any time.

“It’s the best law against corruption that we have ever had. A big change is going to happen in the management of public resources,” Murekezi told the MPs.

Under the new law, criminal liability is removed for a person who gives or receives an illegal benefit and informs the justice organs before the commencement of criminal investigation by providing information and evidence.

The Ombudsman said that the provision is an incentive for people to report corruption without fear of being prosecuted while the previous anti-graft law would punish both the giver and receiver of bribe.

He said that there is a bad habit in the country where some people, especially entrepreneurs, are compelled to pay something to public servants in order to get public services and then fail to report the corrupt officials for fear of being prosecuted.

“There is an aspect of corruption in our culture that has to stop; the practice of having to thank people for providing services that they are in charge of providing,” he told MPs, explaining that there is hope in the new anti-graft law.

The Ombudsman also lauded the new law’s emphasis that the crime of corruption will be imprescriptible, which means that no matter how long ago the crime was committed the suspect will still be prosecuted for it.

“If you are young and take a bribe, you will still be subject to investigation over the crime even when your hair will be turning grey from aging,” Murekezi told the MPs.

The new law against corruption is also being lauded by officials at the Ombudsman’s office for having included embezzlement among corruption offences because it would help the office follow up on this specific crime and further expose those who steal public funds.

The country’s previous law against corruption didn’t clearly include embezzlement among corruption-related offences, which would make the Office of the Ombudsman unable to follow up on convicts of the crime of embezzlement and expose them in the media like it is done for other corruption convicts.

“The list of those convicted with corruption will now include those who were convicted with embezzlement instead of having just petty cases on the list,” the Deputy Ombudsman in charge of Preventing and Fighting Corruption and Related Offences, Clément Musangabatware, told The New Times.

Because embezzlement often involves a lot of money, the Office of the Ombudsman would remain with cases involving small amounts of money while publishing lists of corruption convicts, a situation that has given the impression that the ‘big fish’ are untouchable in the country’s fight against corruption.

That is expected to change with the new anti-graft law and the so-called ‘big fish’ could soon be included on the list of corruption convicts that is regularly published by the Ombudsman’s office.

Musangabatware said that listing embezzlement among corruption crimes is in line with complying with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Rwanda’s long promoted ‘zero-tolerance to corruption’ policy and the government’s anti-graft stance has been paying off as the country is ranked 3rd least corrupt in Africa in the corruption perception index report by Transparency International released last year.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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