Rwanda is steadily recovering from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and is widely known for its commitment to good governance through preventing and fighting corruption.
The Government focuses on people, systems and organisations as well as builds a culture where integrity is valued and corruption rejected.
The goal is to support national development that will sustain; better quality of life; a strong, competitive economy and efficient public services. The Government has put in place mechanisms and institutions that are geared towards a public service characterised by integrity, transparency and accountability. The private sector that operates on a level playing field is a key partner in the fight against corruption.
The institutional framework of the anti-corruption policy is managed by a range of public institutions, including the Office of the Ombudsman, which is constitutionally independent.
Other key players are the National Public Prosecution Authority, the Police, Auditor General and the Public Procurement Authority.
A National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council was also set up to coordinate the activities of the various organs.
In 2010, the World Bank ranked Rwanda 4th least corrupt country in Africa. Only Botswana, Cape Verde and Mauritius came ahead.
Transparency International, in its 2015 Corruption Perception Index, ranked Rwanda the least corrupt country in East Africa. The report also ranked Rwanda 4th in Africa and 44th globally. The progress in the fight against corruption was made possible by the strong political will and low impunity for corruption related offences.
Quietly, there is a revolution going on in Rwanda in the form of fighting corruption. The transformation that Rwanda has undergone since 2004 is quite something. President Paul Kagame and the government have phenomenally clamped down on corruption. The greatest lesson is that leadership and political will matter a lot when it comes to fighting corruption. This, coupled with strong institutions and citizen mobilisation, makes the war on corruption winnable.
Since the creation of the Office of the Ombudsman in 2004, the people and public officials have been sensitised about corruption and its impact. The citizens are aware of their rights hindering officials who attempt to abuse and deny services. Local leaders are recognised for their work in anti-corruption and good governance efforts. This national recognition has motivated their peers to borrow from the best practices.
The anti-corruption campaign also focuses on the youth, because they are the leaders of tomorrow. Campaigns are taken to high schools and universities and clubs are created in addition to the Ministry of Education embedding corruption prevention and integrity training within the schools’ curriculum right from the primary level.
Today, it is mandatory for senior government officials, from the President down to judges and directors general in ministries, to declare their assets before, during and after leaving office. Also, all civil servants in charge of the management of public funds have to declare their assets. The office investigates the origins of their assets to make sure that what they have declared matches their actual wealth. Rwanda’s Leadership Code of Conduct prescribes that every June 30, the relevant officials hand in their assets declaration forms to the Office of the Ombudsman. Should they miss the deadline, various sanctions await them, including suspension, a 25% cut in salary, dismissal, public denouncement and prosecution.
When the anti-corruption campaign started in 2004, some officials blatantly declined to declare their assets, but when stiff punishments were enforced, everyone started ti declare their wealth on time. Assets declaration forms are kept secret, but the Ombudsman Office does routine on-the-field investigations to verify the declarations.
Because of the zero tolerance policy, corruption has been reduced considerably in Rwanda. This is evidenced by the indices published by Transparency International, the World Bank’s Government Indicator, the East African Bribery Index, and others. All of these indices show a sharp decline of corruption in Rwanda. For example, in 2008, in a Transparency International index, Rwanda was 102 out of 175 countries; in 2009 it moved to 89th, in 2010 it was 66th, and in 2011 at 49th.
In conclusion, various governance indicators confirmed that Rwanda performs well in terms of controlling corruption compared to many other countries. The country has also achieved significant progress over the last ten years in terms of government effectiveness and transparency of the regulatory framework. In spite of these efforts, corruption remains prevalent in the country and there have been instances of some cases of tax and public fund embezzlement, fraudulent procurement practices, judicial corruption as well as some officials involved in corrupt practices. However, the Government is carrying on with its firm fight against corruption and has put in place a number of measures and institutions to see it succeed in this effort. The war on corruption is far from over. Corruption is still a threat to national development, despite the unwavering efforts to stamp it out, especially in civil service.
Fighting corruption is not for only the mandated agencies, it’s a collective responsibility. There is need to synergise anticorruption initiatives for enhanced effectiveness.