Districts in Eastern Province have been urged to pay more attention to corruption-prone departments most especially the land office, One Stop Centres and procurement.
The Governor, Fred Mufulukye, said this over the weekend as all district mayors were presented the 2018 Bribery Index published last month by the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI-Rwanda).
The index, based on a perception survey conducted by the organisation, indicates that generally, bribery incidence in local government reduced from 7.7 per cent to 5.2.
Mufulukye challenged the districts to efficiently use the anti-corruption advisory councils at district level, but most specifically urged mayors to rise to the occasion and ensure corruption is eradicated in these prone departments.
During the meeting, the mayors decried the autonomy of some of the departments, saying that the law gives these departments a lot of powers that mayors are left with little room for oversight.
“For example, the new law gives full autonomy to one-stop-centres; the process starts from this office and ends there. It is where people submit applications for construction permits and it is where the permits are provided,” said Kirehe District Mayor, Gerald Muzungu.
He said that the district senior leadership is left with little oversight, adding that these centres even have their own stamps.
However, Richard Mutabazi, the Mayor of Bugesera District said that the district leadership is not entirely powerless, saying that there are a host of measures that can be introduced to bridge the gap.
“The application for construction permit is written to the mayor, meaning that we maintain oversight of how these permits are issued,” he said.
One of the solutions he put forward is obliging these centres to submit periodic reports showing how many applications have been received and how each was processed.
That way, he said, one will easily see any unnecessary delays or notice one that may have been fast-tracked more than usual then bring the officers to account for this.
“This approach may not eradicate corruption 100 percent, but it will limit a one-stop-centre officer from asking for a bribe because they do not know what the executive committee will decide on the application,” he explained.
This was seconded by the Governor, who said that getting a detailed report on all applicants will allow top district leaders to question the head of department on every case that raises suspicion.
Apollinaire Mupiganyi, Executive Director of TI-Rwanda said that despite the decrease in bribery incidences in 2018, at least 1,300,000 people reported to have been asked a bribe for services they were supposed to get free of charge.
“The average of the bribe provided is Rwf58,000, but most of them earn less than Rwf31,000 per month, this means that some were forced to lose important possessions, for example, selling a goat to get a service,” he said.
He described the anti-corruption advisory council as well functioning at the national level but these are not well anchored at the local level, which he said would go a long way in fighting bribery.
At the national level, the council is made up of the ministers of Local Government and Justice, and officials from the Office of the Ombudsman, the Deputy Chief Justice, the Inspector General of Police, the Prosecutor General and the Auditor General.
Others are the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Public Procurement Authority, representatives of the civil society platform, and the head of the Private Sector Federation.