Senators Wednesday evening said it was time to deal seriously with those responsible for mismanaging public funds instead of just making empty threats.
They were discussing the 2016-17 Auditor General’s (AG) report where it was discovered that 13 government institutions that consume 60 per cent of the national budget had been continuously mismanaging funds that included outright embezzlement.
The AG’s report found repeated cases of malpractice as a result of negligence, indifference, incompetence, among others, causing losses of billions of taxpayers’ money and suggests that bold decisions be taken to minimise such vices.
“It is no longer enough to summon wrongdoers. We know that such people are summoned by PAC (Public Accounts Committee) over the same malpractices and recommendations are made, but every year it is the same thing. It is time tough measures are taken against those involved,” said Senator Gallican Niyongana.
Institutions singled out include the University of Rwanda (UR), Rwanda Education Board (REB), Rwanda Energy Group (REG), Workforce Development Authority (WDA), Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB)
Others are Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA) among others.
For instance, 83 projects, worth Rwf158.3 billion, were abandoned in the 2016-17 fiscal year out of 109 projects that had been planned, up from 26 projects worth Rwf48.4 million that had stalled in the previous year.
There are also cases of unsupported and wasteful expenditure, unauthorised expenditure as well as funds which were diverted or fraudulently utilised all having cost the taxpayer some Rwf7,9 billion in 2016-17, Rwf17.6billion in 2015-16, and Rwf18.9billion in 2014-15.
In general, 67 per cent of Auditor General’s recommendations were not implemented in 2016-17, up from 40 per cent in 2015-16 and 36 per cent in the year before, according to the report.
Senator Appolinaire Mushinzimana urged the Senate to move fast in devising sanctions and implementing them.
“If we can’t request for competent authorities to sanction them, then we will make no change as senators,” said Mushinzimana.
Senator Tito Rutaremara challenged his colleagues to ask themselves why there is no change despite all the recommendations.
“We need to look at why the recommendations we make almost every year are not implemented. We cited negligence among the reasons, but we also need to look at why that negligence is still there,” said Rutaremara.
Auditor General reacts
According to Obadiah Biraro, the Auditor General, the Senators have a responsibility to hold public leaders accountable, especially those it confirms before assuming their respective responsibilities.
“It is long overdue; I have on several occasions advised the Senate to hold public officials to account. Those officials are from institutions that spend a big chunk of the budget and are nominated by the Government and approved by the Senate,” he said.
“It is the Senate that gives that job and bestows trust, it should be able to ask people to account for that trust, and if they don’t account for it, it means you should be in position to withdraw it or take other appropriate punishment”.