Rwf2.4 billion hospitality school project stalls

The parliamentary discussions on Friday were dominated by a proposed Rwf2.4 billion Kigali Hospitality Management Institute, which hit an impasse.

Construction of the project was to start in early 2015 following an agreement between Workforce Development Authority (WDA) and Swiss-based hospitality school Les Roches International School of Hotel Management.

Les Roches was to provide advisory and support services to WDA in a project to establish the hospitality institute in Rwanda for four years leading up to March 2019.

The government hired Roko Construction Ltd to carry out the designing and construction of the project.

However, despite the investment, the project is yet to be completed. These details emerged as members of the Public Accounting Committee (PAC) were analyzing the Auditor General’s report for the 2018-2019 financial year.

The Auditor General’s report highlighted persistent weaknesses in the implementation of the agreement.

The explanations of delays by officials on Friday were characterized by blame games.

Beatrice Mutoni, the former Project Coordinator at WDA, explained that the contractor halted construction activities due to delayed payments by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

 “We used to always write to the ministry requesting for the expedition the payment process but in vain,” she said.

However, Marcel Mukeshimana, the Accountant General at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning explained that the disbursement could not be carried out as expected since the project did not have an independent institution to supervise it.

It was found that the contractor of the project was also the supervisor, which Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze the PAC Chairman, said was not right, citing conflict of interest.

“It means that if there are some mistakes or loopholes, the supervisor would cover them up.”

With delays in completion, Les Roches which had also agreed to manage the school withdrew from the project, accusing WDA of breach of contract.

MPs also blamed the legal advisor, Aimable Muhire, for failure to assess potential risks related to the failure to execute deliverables or review the agreement where possible.

“All of us were aware of the risks but nothing we could do since the partner pushed on the deliverables,” Muhire said.

MPs also tasked WDA officials to explain why they went ahead to buy the school equipment yet they were aware that construction works had stalled.

When the Auditor General’s office visited the site in December 2018, it found out that construction works were at 78 percent complete.

Eng. Pascal Gatabazi, the Director-General of WDA said that so far over Rwf1 billion has been spent on the project and pledged to bring back Les Roches into the partnership.

Their contract expired on March 30, 2019.

According to the agreement, the institute was meant to start in January 2016 and WDA committed to pay Rwf77 million per semester to Les Roches as advisory and service fee when the school is operating.

But the AG report noted that advisory and service fee was continuously paid to Les Roches since it had accumulated Rwf454 million at the time of audit in December 2018 despite the school not having been opened.

Obadiah Biraro, the Auditor General said WDA is at 46 percent in implementing the recommendation of his report.

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