PAC suspends hearings over Covid-19 pandemic

Members of the parliamentary Committe on Public Account (PAC) during a hearing on September 19, 2019. / Photo: Sam Ngendahimana.

Almost three weeks since it was scheduled to kick off this year’s hearings, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says that it has temporarily put the proceedings on hold in light of the challenges stemming from the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a telephone interview with The New Times, the PAC Chairperson MP Valens Muhakwa said that the hearings that were scheduled to commence on July 21 and conclude on August 5 were postponed to protect the participants from the risks of Covid 19.

 

“The participants in these hearings come from all over the country. We had to weigh the options and decided that while PAC hearings are important, the health of Rwandans is of course our first priority,” he said. 

 

Muhakwa said that there were still ongoing discussions on possible solutions but added that given the nature of the pandemic, he could not readily put a timeline on when exactly the PAC hearings would resume.

 

The hearings were scheduled to see accounting officers and other top officials from 48 institutions appear before the committee to shed light on the issues raised by the Auditor General in his 2019/2020 report.

Taking on new role

The hearings were expected to be MP Muhakwa’s first big test since he was unanimously voted by 78 members of the lower chamber to lead the committee in June this year.

He came in to replace Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze who was appointed Minister of State in charge of Agriculture and Animal Resources in March this year.

Like his predecessor, Muhakwa belongs to the Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Asked what fresh ideas he is bringing to the table, Muhakwa, 37, who holds a Master’s degree in Public International Law, told The New Times that his education background makes him keen on upholding compliance.

“I am also keen on value for money. Our country’s resources are limited and our budget is funded by citizen taxes and from borrowing, so it’s imperative that the money is used right,” he said.

He added that there are loopholes in the country’s laws that can be used as an excuse for anyone who wants to embezzle government funds.

“The institutions that are given these funds must put them to use them in line with the law. We have clear laws and there are no loopholes that you can use as an excuse. I am a lawyer so when it comes to compliance, I am very strict,” he said.

Introduced ten years ago, PAC sits every year where, basing on the Auditor General’s report, the committee tasks officials from public institutions to give details about the issues pertaining to funds disbursement of their institutions.

If PAC does not sit this year, it will be the first time this has happened since it was established in 2000.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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