Rwf200m earmarked for model village in Karongi goes missing

Some of the housing units that were shoddily constructed in Karongi District. / Courtesy

Rwanda Investigation Bureau is probing a possible case of embezzlement and mismanagement of taxpayers’ money related to some Rwf200 million that went missing in Karongi District.

The missing funds were part of the Rwf575 million that had been earmarked for the construction of a 384 housing unit model village to house vulnerable people in the district.

However, almost 200 residents who were supposed to benefit from the project – which dates as far back as 2010 – were not catered for, leaving them stranded.

The model village project in Bubazi-Bunyankungu was supposed to be implemented by the Western provincial and Karongi district authorities, according to the Ombudsman’s Office.

This issue was highlighted in the annual Ombudsman’s report which was presented to parliament recently.

The Ombudsman’s Office has since referred the matter to RIB, The New Times has learnt, with authorities insisting that the case is not too old for culprits to be brought to book.

The Spokesman for RIB, Modeste Mbabazi, confirmed to The New Times that his office had received the file but could not reveal any further information.

“Yes, we received a file from the Ombudsman’s Office and yes I can confirm that there is an ongoing criminal investigation as we speak. I cannot reveal anything further than that,” he said.

According to sources, seven people are implicated in that file.

Chief Ombudsman Anastase Murekezi said his office conducted thorough evaluation and concluded that the project had been grossly mismanaged with hundreds of millions of Francs still unaccounted for.

Murekezi said that while authorities in the province received Rwf575 million to construct 384 houses, so far Rwf365 million has been spent and only 107 houses built.

Unfortunately, the Ombudsman says, the houses that have so far been constructed are also of poor quality.

District authorities could not explain how the Rwf208 million was spent.

A visibly irked Murekezi faulted authorities in the province.

Under the project, the district was supposed to construct the houses for residents. However, it asked the people to do the construction and instead pledged to provide them with construction materials like cement, bricks, wood, iron sheets, nails and sand.

“What we found out is that locals are living in unfinished houses and the designs of the houses were completely different,” Murekezi said.

Inflated costs

The Ombudsman’s Office also discovered that some excess money was spent.

For instance, in May 2012, Western Province transferred Rwf21.5 million to the then EWSA account in the National Bank of Rwanda for connecting electricity to 384 homes.

According to their calculations, connecting each house to electricity would cost Rwf56,000. However, it was discovered that at the time this money was paid, only 11 houses had been built and were yet to be completed.

The cost for connecting the 11 houses is Rwf616,000.

Today, the entire model village has 107 houses whose connection to electricity would have come to Rwf5.9m.

A report by Western Province that was handed to the Ministry of Local Government indicates that to correct some of these mistakes, each family would be given the Rwf56,000 for the installation of electricity but by the time of the evaluation, none of the locals had received that money.

The Project Manager was also faulted for causing losses to the Government over negligence.

“For instance, Rwf11.8 million was issued to rent machines to make bricks meant to build 384 houses. However, none of those bricks was ever used. As of today, half of them were destroyed by rain,” the report says.

The Spokesman for the Ombudsman’s Office, Jean Pierre Nkurunziza, warned that crimes involving corruption do not expire and can be investigated at any time.

“There are laws that govern every action. The fact that this project goes as far back as 2010 does not mean that it cannot be looked into. No suspicious activity is too old to investigate,” he said.

Though he could not divulge details, Nkurunziza said that the Ombudsman’s Office had handed a list of names to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau for investigation.

Speaking to The New Times in a telephone interview, the Mayor of Karongi District, François Ndayisaba, pointed out that the said project came into force almost five years before his tenure began, but confirmed that the Ombudsman’s Office had indeed conducted an evaluation and recommended an investigation.

“That project started in 2010 and I was elected into office in 2015 so I really wasn’t here when it kicked off. However, I know that the Project Manager is no longer here and I am aware that after the Ombudsman’s evaluation, the Ministry of Finance also conducted an audit and, in the end, a file was handed over to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau,” he said.

Due to the absence of a feasibility study and project proposal, the entire project had no clear timeline.