Gasabo recalls construction permits over fraud spotlight

Gasabo residents who had been issued with construction permits by district authorities between 2012 and 2014 will have to apply afresh following the cancellation of all previous permits.
Workers at a construction site in Kigali in 2013. Authorities in Gasabo District have recalled construction permits issued between 2012 and 2014 over allegations of fraudulent issuance. (File)
Workers at a construction site in Kigali in 2013. Authorities in Gasabo District have recalled construction permits issued between 2012 and 2014 over allegations of fraudulent issuance. (File)

Gasabo residents who had been issued with construction permits by district authorities between 2012 and 2014 will have to apply afresh following the cancellation of all previous permits.

The reissuing of the documents will allow the authorities to verify valid permits following reports of fraud in the issuance process.

The decision affects permit holders who are yet to commence construction.

Affected persons

The actual number of those affected is yet to be determined. However, from 2012 to-date, about 800 construction permits were issued in Gasabo District.

Gasabo mayor Stephen Rwamulangwa yesterday confirmed the development, telling The New Times that the district had “detected a number of errors in some permits, including fraud in the issuance and other permits that were not fitting in the Kigali City master plan.”

Rwamulangwa said the decision to recall the permits followed the realisation of four cases where people had proper construction permits that were not anywhere in the records of the district.

“We suspected that there were people who might have connived with district staff to bypass the electronic filing system and the archive to get these documents which is criminal; at the moment we don’t know how many but we will know the exact figure after this exercise,” Rwamulangwa said.

He added that the exercise would identify district staff who worked on each irregular permit for punitive measures to be taken.

Among those that will be affected include people with residential permits issued in land gazetted for infrastructural projects and facilities like roads, schools, hospitals and recreational centres, among others.

“We are planning to inform those whose permits have no issue to just go to their respective sectors and change them. It takes only three days for someone to have their new permit,” Rwamulangwa added.

Fraudulent permits

The New Times has since learnt that there are cases where some people were in 2013 denied construction permits because the kind of structures they wanted to raise weren’t within the design of the master plan.

Although the district authorities do not reveal details of the alleged people, they acknowledge that they were surprised finding out that such people had acquired permits which were backdated to 2012.

There are also reports of buildings that were demolished in the process of construction and, suddenly, owners resumed the construction this time with permits backdated to 2012.

Normally, a construction permit expires after three years if the holder does not commence the construction and this is partly Gasabo’s basis to recall all those issued three years ago.

The issuance of new permits is expected to take two weeks and, among the issues that are being looked into, include people who have had permits for long but are yet to commence the construction.

“People buy land and acquire construction permits, then they just keep the land for long waiting for it to appreciate and they sell it highly; this delays development as the land is kept dormant for long,” the mayor said.

At district offices, yesterday, this newspaper found a few people who had showed up to inquire more about the decision, while others had returned their permits.

Those who returned the documents expressed fear that the decision might affect them.

“I was just in the process of commencing construction and this means I have to stop people I had hired to work at the site,” Edward Mbagizente, who owns a plot in Gisozi Sector, told The New Times as he returned his construction permit.

“I pity people who had acquired loans from banks and happen not to get back their permits because it would be a big blow.”

Clean neighbours

However, in the neighbouring districts, the situation is said to be different as officials say the permits are issued in accordance with the requirements and records of people beating the system are yet to be reported.

According to Nyarugenge mayor Solange Mukasonga, the permits issued from the district fit within the master plan.

“The case of Gasabo is related to employees who issued fraudulent documents. Our district has a clean record,” said Mukasonga.

In Kicukiro District, Mayor Jules Ndamage said there were no malpractices identified so far since permits are issued by competent staff.

“Before issuing a permit, we first look at the master plan to see if the location is indeed meant for a residential house,” Ndamage said.

“We also haven’t seen any issues related to our archives vis-à-vis the permits in public possession, however this does not mean that we can’t review them, where need arises, we will definitely review.”

editorial@newtimes.co.rw