EDITORIAL: Gov’t debtors to feel the crunch at last

There is a popular joke that goes; “The government is the only vessel known to leak from top to bottom”. When it comes to losing money, it does not leak, it bleeds.

In countries that have poor monitoring and oversight, government finances are tossed around from one pocket to the other.  Being a government official, especially one who comes into close contact with finances or procurement, is like manna falling from heaven.

Rwanda has made fighting corruption its priority, but in the process, it left its underbelly exposed when it came to recovering debts. For many years, those who owed the government money were not bothered due to bureaucracy. Now the honeymoon is over.

The government has come up with a novel idea to force the hand of debtors. The names of over 500 people who owe it money have been put in a database. It will be shared with all key service providers, from the traffic police, immigration department, land offices, tax and social security authorities; in short, all crucial service providers will be informed and the debtor will not be served until they pay.

The Ministry of Justice and other stakeholders need a pat on the back. There are many people out there enjoying the spoils of dishonesty at the expense of taxpayers. The free ride is over.

But in order to avoid the “state sanctions”, debtors have been given a lifeline; if they acknowledge the debt and agree with a payment plan, they are home free; otherwise, a life of a pariah awaits them.  One would tend to ask themselves; why didn’t they think of this before? Well, better late than never.