PAC Hearings: Factory made banana ‘porridge’ instead of juice

Members of the Public Accounts were shocked after hearing that a factory that was intended to make banana juice produced banana 'porridge' instead.

This was revealed during the public hearings held by PAC on Thursday, September 17, 2020 when officials from the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) were providing explanations for mismanagement cases identified in the Auditor General's 2018/2019 report.

 

In an article published by The New Times on December 18, 2016, NIRDA said the factory would start production mid-2017, and that it would also be making banana pulp which those who want to make wine can buy and use.

 

Pulp is the soft moist part of a fruit, such as the succulent fleshy tissue of a banana.

 

The Auditor General's report showed a delay to operationalise Rwamagana Banana Community Processing Centre, indicating that NIRDA invested about Rwf1.2 billion in constructing and equipping it. 

It added that this Center was fully constructed and equipped in January 2019. However, by the time of audit in January 2020, after one year of its readiness for operation, it was not yet put into the intended use.

Jean De Dieu Bikorimana, an official at NIRDA said that the agency had reached an agreement with a contractor to procure equipment that will be producing 28,000 litres of banana juice per day. However, he said, the equipment ended up producing banana 'porridge'.

“The machinery was bought from Europe where it is not a custom to make banana juice,” he claimed.  

He said that the testing for the equipment took over a year, and NIRDA had to hire independent test experts so that they could help fix the issue.

MPs said that the hiring of experts to test the equipment involved an extra cost, implying a loss to the government.

PAC Chairperson, Valens Muhakwa argued that the situation implies that the procured equipment did not meet specifications, blaming the tender team at the agency.

NIRDA officials agreed that there was poor planning which resulted in the issue, but told PAC that it has been addressed and that the factory is expected to start operations in September, 2020.

PAC Chairperson, Valens Muhakwa requested NIRDA officials to provide a report to the Committee detailing the issues that faced the factory and how they were addressed, which NIRDA DG promised to submit to it on Tuesday, September 22, 2020.  

Meanwhile, Claire Mukeshimana, the Director General of NIRDA, told PAC members that two officials – Joseph Mungarurire, former NIRDA DG, and Vincent Ndacyayisenga who was president of Tender at the agency – have so far been punished [administratively] for the malpractice in the procurement process.

She said that the case is still in court so that they are held accountable. 

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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