There must be value for every public penny spent - AG

The Auditor-General has indicated that every penny from the national treasury should be put to good use and value for money for public finances is determined by the extent of improvement in citizens’ lives.

AG Obadiah Biraro made the observations on Saturday, September 19, during a discussion on what should be done to bridge gaps in the use and management of State finances, which was broadcast on state radio.

 

The panel discussion featured Biraro, Senator Juvenal Nkusi who is former Public Accounts Committee (PAC); and Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, Chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda.

 

“Our main focus as the Office of the Auditor-General is on what the national budget or asset improved on the lives of the citizen,” Biraro said.

 

He gave an example that about four years ago (in 2015), a partnership was formed between the National Employment Programme (NEP) and the Business Development Fund (BDF) to procure a wood drying machine for ADARWA – a cooperative of carpenters located in Gisozi, Gasabo District.

“The drier intended to support the wood processors to make quality timbers locally so that people could buy them from locally-grown trees, instead of importing them abroad,” he said.

But, his 2018/2019 audit report found that the drier was not yet available for use until March 2019, implying that there was yet no value for more than Rwf100 million that was spent on its procurement.

Citizens who called in during the talk exposed issues including delays in paying people for the works they have done, and the need for BDF to scale up the support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

“I strongly request PAC and the Auditor General to make advocacy for us in the Government so that BDF changes its operations or be reformed because it is clear that its interests are based on big enterprises, instead of supporting the people with small businesses so they are able to develop,” said Israel Sabato, a resident from Musanze District.

Senator Nkusi said that the government stated in its policy that it wants to focus on providing loan security to SMEs.

Still, he said, the Government had a target, citing the more than 200,000 jobs that the country envisaged creating every year under the first phase of the National Strategy for Transformation which runs from 2017 to 2024.

“That will be achieved thanks to using means like credit secured by a guarantee that BDF would give them. BDF serves the country, it should comply with that guiding principle,” he said.

Need for extending the audit

In line with ensuring comprehensive accountability for public finances, Ingabire for Transparency International Rwanda called for auditing projects that involve entities including development partners and non-governmental organisations that have not yet been covered by the Auditor General.

 “We encounter problems where blatant malpractices were made in awarding public tender. But, when you expose the fraud case [to the prosecution], they say that the funds to finance the project are not an asset of the State, rather a development partner such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and therefore, they are not going to investigate the tender,” she said.

However, Ingabire said that as long as Rwanda is a member of the Bank, and the funds are ideally meant to bring a positive change in the lives of its citizens, they should be audited as well.

Ingabire pointed out that there is still more effort to make in order to bring before justice all the people involved in the embezzlement of public funds.

“It is not acceptable that in most cases, a public servant connives with a private businessperson to misappropriate public funds, but, only the former is pursued,” she said.

For Nkusi, even the loans that the Government gets from international financial institutions such as AfDB should be audited because they become a public asset and Rwandans will ultimately contribute to their repayment in a way or another.

“All the money is put in the same basket with a converging goal to achieve the country’s development agenda,” he said.

Biraro said that no franc that has entered the national treasury is a property of a particular individual.

“All funds which have entered the nation national treasury are State finances, regardless of their source. It should be used to achieve improvement in the livelihoods of the people,” he said adding that institutions such as the AfDB and the World Bank accept Rwanda’s auditing systems.

On auditing cooperatives, Biraro said that the emphasis should be put on the more than 400 Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) as important financial institutions in the country. 

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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