Editorial: War on graft: the law must take its full course

Civil society organisations have called for measures to ease the process to dismiss civil servants who are caught embroiled in corruption-related crimes.

The activists argue that the civil service statute, in its current form, has allowed for some of the suspects to end up manipulating the system to get away with the charges they are accused of because some will remain in employment even after they are caught.

This, they say, has frustrated the war on graft.

In trying to make their case, the activists are invoking practices by Rwanda National Police where hundreds of officers have been dismissed with disgrace because of corruption.

To be precise, in just three years, 371 officers have been dishonourably discharged because of corruption. This is very commendable, mainly because this firm stance has started bearing results.

According to the 2017 report by Transparency International Rwanda Chapter, corruption in Police decreased from 15.5 per cent in 2016 to 8.1 per cent the following year.

That said; however, let us take this proposal by civil society through rigorous scrutiny before considering it for possible implementation.

This is because of a number of reasons.

One, due process is important. This is on the basis of the presumption of innocence before one is proven guilty. Public officials should not be denied this right.

Two, police officers also go through this process before a decision to dismiss those found culpable is taken. The difference is that their statute allows for institutional sanctions that can come into play – where necessary – pending a criminal investigation.

Replicating such sanctions across other public institutions should be exercised with caution because it could end up being abused by people wanting to settle personal scores. This should be left to courts of law.

Much effort should be put on inculcating the culture of ownership of the war on graft to ensure it is reported in real time whenever it occurs, which will lead to apprehension, prosecution and conviction of the culpable.

The legal infrastructure is already in place, at least in the recent set of laws that were passed to help fight corruption and the creation of specialised economic crime chambers at the Intermediate Courts to handle corruption.

All this is part of the effort to make sure that due process is followed and the cases are expeditiously prosecuted to ensure the bad apples are removed from the good ones before they cause further damage.