Watchdog pushes for speedy recovery of embezzled funds

A staggering Rwf7.3 billion, which stems from corruption and unpaid fines, is owed to the Government by people who lost cases in courts, according to official information.
Théophile Mbonera, Head of the Legal Services Department at the Ministry of Justice, is optimistic the new approach will boost government to recover lost funds. / File

The government should look for new strategies to expedite the recovery of stolen public funds from people who lost graft related cases in courts, according Transparency International Rwanda (TI-RW).

The watchdog made the call last week during a meeting with various partners to deliberate on its findings from the assessment of court judgments related to corruption.

Apollinaire Mupiganyi, the Executive Director of Transparency International Rwanda, said that there was little progress in recovering embezzled public funds, hence stressing the need to revisit existing strategies.

A staggering Rwf7.3 billion, which stems from corruption and unpaid fines, is owed to the Government by people who lost cases in courts, according to official information.

Out of the total sum owed to the Government by convicted individuals, Embezzlement accounts for Rwf6.3 billion.

Since the Government launched the campaign to recover stolen public money in 2014, it has managed to collect just Rwf2 billion.

Mupiganyi stressed the need to intensify the campaign, especially by judiciary, saying that it was in the public interest as slow recovery was derailing national progress.

“The process of recovering embezzled funds is still low despite efforts by the Ministry of Justice to recover the money from convicted people,” he said

“We are seeing efforts but we (think) there is need for clear strategies to recover the money and ensure there’s follow-up on properties that are confiscated in courts.”

According to Jean-Claude Rwibasira, the Legal and Policy Coordinator at TI-Rwanda, there is a nexus between embezzled object and the embezzler and that prosecution should prove that the embezzled property was linked to the embezzler.

“Normally, the court, when delivering a ruling over cases of corruption (bribery, embezzlement, illicit enrichment) should detail the fate of seized properties. However, it has been ascertained that, in some cases, the courts did not decide over the seized properties,” he said

For example, he said, of the 107 cases were properties of the culprits subject to confiscation, the court decided on the fate of the seized property involving only 51 cases and remained silent on the rest. This raises suspicion on the fate of that property.

Government reacts

In a recent interview with The New Times, Théophile Mbonera, the Head of the Legal Services department at the Ministry of Justice, said the Government was not ready to give up on the fight.

“We are still compiling a report in order to identify how much money can be recovered and cases whose judgements are not enforceable,” Mbonera said, explaining that in some cases hope is fading.

“There are judgements in which our bailiffs have totally failed to recover the money involved because debtors have no money,” he said.

Among the measures being pursued include evoking the newly revised law which necessitates a potential higher income for bailiffs in addition to collaborating with institutions like the National Identification Agency (NIDA), Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) and Directorate of Immigration and Emigration to establish the location of debtors.

Unlike in the period before 2017, the year when the new law for bailiffs was enacted, now bailiffs can get five per cent of the money recovered on behalf of the Government.

In the past, their earning was capped at Rwf500,000 from recovery service.

In March last year, the 15th Leadership Retreat resolved to strengthen strategies to fight corruption in all public and private institutions, fast-track recovery of embezzled public funds, and put in place measures for compliance with the Auditor General’s recommendations.