Regional lawmakers in consultations on graft fight

EALA members listen to stakeholders during a public hearing on the new Bill in Kigali on Monday. Photo: James Karuhanga.

A group of East African legislators arrived in Kigali over the weekend to consult stakeholders on the East African Community Integrity and Anti- Corruption Bill 2019

The Bill seeks to promote integrity and ethical values within organs and institutions of the East African Community (EAC).

According to MP Victor Barikukiye, the Chairperson of the East African Legislative Assembly’s (EALA) Standing Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolutions, the proposals are designed to counter and prevent corruption and corruption-related culture in the six-member economic bloc

The six members of EALA – three from Rwanda and three from Burundi – arrived from Burundi where they wrapped up a similar exercise.

The committee is traversing the entire region to consult.  

The Bill seeks to eliminate corruption, bribery and other corrupt practices. 

Currently, lawmakers say, the only two existing frameworks for preventing and combating corruption within organs and institutions of the community are EAC staff rules and regulations and the EAC Anti-corruption Policy of 2006.

These two tools don’t have sanctions to stop employees of the community from engaging in corruption, Barikukiye said.

Officials from the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), the Ministry of Justice, Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), among others, on Monday, contributed ideas to the Bill before EALA passes it in the near future.

MP Fatuma Ndangiza said: “We especially have to let stakeholders here open up and share their views because at the end of it all, it is them who will enforce the law.” 

“It will be national courts that will try corruption cases, not the East African Court of Justice.”

Once passed, it is hoped that the legislation will help stem cases of graft, wasteful expenditure, irregular recruitment, use of wrong procurement methods and other corrupt tendencies.

For example, according to the report of the Assembly on the audited accounts of the EAC for the year ended June 30, 2016 – which was filed mid last year – highlighted irregular transactions of Rwf5 million ($6,000) and Rwf26 million ($32,000) in one of the Community’s new institutions in two consecutive days.

Five years ago, an audit of the Secretariat also revealed cases of wasteful expenditure, questionable payments and weaknesses in procurement management, with the Secretariat reportedly spending about $3.4 million during the 2012/2013 financial year on uncalled-for procurement of air tickets, accounting for about 10 per cent of its total expenditure during the year under review.

The Arusha-based Secretariat refuted the claims.

The Bill is one among the unfinished business of the third Assembly whose tenure ended in December 2017.

The tenure of the third Assembly elapsed before the Bill could be introduced and passed into Law.

It was initially conceived by Zain Abubakar, former Chairperson of the Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolutions during the third Assembly.

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