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Stop justifying mediocrity, Kagame tells leaders

President Kagame with the mayor's from the top 3 performing districts (R-L); Nyaruguru, Huye and Rwamagana

President Paul Kagame has told leaders that Rwandans expect more from them, challenging them to step up efforts to fulfil their responsibilities, correct past mistakes and deliver on what they are expected to. 

He presided over the signing ceremony of the performance contracts, locally known as Imihigo, in Nyagatare District in Eastern Province.

 

“Imihigo means to make a vow for what you want to do, the target you want to reach, all which leads to where you ultimately want to go, which in our case, is achieving development,” he said.

 

It is about more than just making vows, Kagame said, it also means finding ways to do the right things. “We want good welfare, development and security. That’s what Rwandans expect from us.”

 

This was the 14th edition of Imihigo since the model, which is drawn from a pre-colonial cultural practice, was re-introduced in 2006 as a framework to improve accountability and promote development driven by citizens themselves.

Despite years of trying to build a system of accountability to improve how leaders from the central and local government deliver on their targets, the President said there were still a lot of mistakes committed by leaders.

He questioned the leaders, asking them what it is they needed to fulfil their responsibilities.

“This time some of you admit that failure to perform wasn’t a lack of budget. If the budget is there, where then is the challenge to implement what was supposed to be done?” he questioned.

More often, the Head of State indicated that individuals in leadership positions point to lack of coordination and proper planning that leads to slow progress in implementation of government activities.

“You can apologise if your excuse is to say that you didn’t personally have the capacity to properly plan, but do you realize that anything that you are not able to do, there are others who can do it? That’s why the budget is there anyway,” he noted.

Kagame criticized leaders who discourage others when they come into offices and try to introduce new ways of working, highlighting an example of returnees who may have worked abroad.

“In other [developed] countries, there is limited room for mistakes and you are held accountable for the things you are meant to do,” he said.

“When people who worked in that setting come back home and try to introduce that way of working, they are intimidated by those they find in offices that they can’t work that way,” he added.

He insisted that this behaviour shouldn’t be entertained in any way.

The Head of State also cautioned leaders against presiding over mediocrity.

Citing an example of how projects tend to be delayed because of what some leaders call technical work, Kagame stated that “technicalities cannot be an end in itself, they can be modified. The end is the service, the product you get out of it.”

At the same time, he indicated that some leaders hide behind laws to avoid executing their work. “Many jump to invoke the law or procedures to justify bad service. Laws are there to ease things not to complicate them.”

The 2020-2021 Imihigo were signed after Kagame had sent leaders to the drawing board, which saw the postponement of last year’s signing of performance contracts.

He had tasked leaders to go back and improve targets and widen its scope, which in meant including indicators related to improving housing and hygiene for citizens.

According to the Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente, Imihigo were streamlined to enhance human security indicators, while new principles were introduced to allow for proper evaluation of performance contracts.

This means that evaluation of Imihigo will be done every year, while an impact assessment will be conducted every three years.

“Another key principle we have adopted is that every performance contract should be fulfilled or else it is awarded zero percent. We resolved that no partial performance contract will ever exist again,” he said.

“This will be done especially for activities that won’t benefit citizens when they are not fully implemented. Examples include cases where we are building hospitals and schools,” he added.

jbizimungu@newtimesrwanda.com

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