Ombudsman lays out plan to timely tackle injustices

Ombudsman Anastase Murekezi speaks as his deputies Clément Musangabatware (left) and Odette Yankurije look on during the hearing at Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.

The Office of the Ombudsman will propose to the government to add extra 19 workers to its team as it seeks to increase outreach services to citizens and provide timely responses to their petitions.

The plan was revealed yesterday by Anastase Murekezi, Chief Ombudsman, as he met members of the Lower House’s parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender.

The MPs are currently analysing the Ombudsman’s report for the 2017/2018 fiscal year to bring any pressing issues of corruption and injustice across the country to the attention of Parliament.

Murekezi said that the office needs to increase its staff from 78 to 97 to be able to handle more injustice and corruption complaints from citizens on time and resolve them promptly.

On average, the office receives around 2,000 cases of injustice related complaints and 1,000 cases of appeals against court judgments every year.

Moreover, it takes long to respond to petitioners, partly because the office doesn’t have enough staff to investigate the cases and come up with the right response on time.

“We need to respond faster to people’s complaints and the more we reach out to citizens, the more complaints we collect,” the Ombudsman said.

He explained that with the new law against corruption having included embezzlement among corruption offences, his office will need more staff to investigate such cases being reported.

Then there is a plan to deliberately reach out to more people across the country in order to facilitate them to report corruption and injustice cases.

“Corruption related cases have increased as part of the new law and we have more to follow up on as a result. We need prosecutors and their assistants as well as investigators among other staff,” the Ombudsman told journalists shortly after meeting the MPs.

The latter pushed the Office of the Ombudsman to strengthen efforts at curbing injustice and corruption cases, especially in the area of compensation for expropriation for public interest works as well as payments for workers who are employed by private contractors to do the works.

“Not giving compensation early enough always creates problems,” said MP Theoneste Begumisa Safari.

Murekezi said that his office will continue to push the government and other stakeholders to ensure that the issue of expropriation related arrears is resolved as soon as possible, along with that of contractors of public works who owe money to their workers.

“We receive a lot of complaints about expropriation. Our government is pro-people and always works for people’s benefits. The same should be applied in expropriation processes,” he said in an interview.

A report by Rwanda Civil Society Platform indicated in November last year that at least 30 per cent of land expropriation claimants in the country suffer delays in receiving their compensations.

Among the powers held by the Office of the Ombudsman include the powers of judicial police, which means that the office can investigate reported cases of corruption and injustice, as well as the power to request administrative sanctions for officials involved in corruption and injustice.

The office also has prosecutorial powers that enable its prosecutors to sue offenders and charge them in courts, bailiffs’ powers that help in the execution of court judgements, as well as the power to request for judgment review in case of suspected injustice or corruption in the administration of justice.