Local leaders on the spot over Rwf1bn social protection fund

Prosecution has so far recorded over Rwf1.5 billion in public funds that went missing in the last two fiscal years, of which the biggest chunk (Rwf1.3 billion) was dedicated to social protection programmes.
Beneficiaries of Girinka. The programme is one of those in the spotlight. / File.
Beneficiaries of Girinka. The programme is one of those in the spotlight. / File.

Prosecution has so far recorded over Rwf1.5 billion in public funds that went missing in the last two fiscal years, of which the biggest chunk (Rwf1.3 billion) was dedicated to social protection programmes.

Such programmes include community-based health insurance scheme (Mutuelle de Santé), worth about Rwf557 million, Vision Umurenge Programme (VUP) (Rwf454 million), and Girinka programme (Rwf269 million).

 

These figures were registered in 2014/15 and 2015/16 financial years.

 

Over 100 cases, which involved 179 people mostly local leaders at sector and district levels as well as their accomplices were recorded, according to figures from Rwanda National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA).

 

Other areas include Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) where Rwf246.5 million was recorded only in last fiscal year and Nkunganire (fertiliser subsidies) where about Rwf4 million was said to have been embezzled.

However, the number of cases tried is still few. For instance, in 2014/15, only 13 cases involving 20 defendants were tried, of which 17 received convictions and three acquitted.

Those that were convicted were ordered to pay Rwf32 million.

And, in 2015/16, 32 cases were tried involving 71 individuals of whom 23 were convicted and 26 acquitted.

NPPA spokesperson Faustin Nkusi told The New Times last week: “The law exists and what we are responsible of is to investigate crimes, prosecute them and if need be, we take the cases to courts.”

He noted that institutional leaders should be careful so that social protection funds reach the right beneficiaries because any mishandling of the funds derails national development.

Preventive measures

Ladislas Ngendahimana, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, admitted there were weaknesses in supervision of how funds disbursed for social protection programmes are used, saying the key issue is entrenching the culture of accountability.

However, he said more efforts were put in to ensure that the number of crimes committed at local level, especially in the management of social protection programmes, are mitigated.

“At strategic level, we realised that there was weakness but it was realised later (after the money was misused) due to inadequate and weak supervision mechanisms; however, we have established a local government inspection department at the ministry level and the staff will be complementing local authorities to deal with social protection malpractices,” he said.

The recruitment process to put in place staff needed in the department is ongoing and it would be fully operational beginning of next year, Ngendahimana said.

“Supervision committees at the grassroots level were also established and the sector advisory councils were tasked to ensure that right beneficiaries benefit from all social protection programmes including VUP, Girinka and Ubudehe, unlike previously when the sector executive secretary worked alone to identify beneficiaries,” he said.

Ngendahimana said the funds of Mutuelle de Santé, which used to be managed by local leaders where some leaders would involve in mismanagement, are no longer there as it is now managed by the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB).

On mismanagement of Girinka, VUP and Ubudehe funds, he said, investigations have been conducted and criminal cases prosecuted, adding that where it was deemed necessary, administrative sanctions were imposed.

He added that the ministry is working with police and prosecution to ensure that further investigations are carried out to ensure that everybody who unduly benefited from these programmes are brought to book.

There is also a new software dubbed, “Monitoring Evaluation and Information System,” which will help collecting and analysing all information at local level to ensure accountability.

The software will be launched by next month, according to officials.

The head of animal resources department at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Dr Christine Kanyandekwe, told The New Times that following malpractices in the Girinka programme, ministerial instructions were recently issued on the selection of Girinka beneficiaries, the provision of cows and punishments to be meted out against a person involved in malpractices in the programme.

She said they distributed, countrywide, about 7,000 copies of the ministerial instructions including to members of the Girinka committees at the cell level, which, according to her, will help address the issue.

“The problem that occurred before was that for cases involving property less than Rwf2 million, a category in which most Girinka cases fell had to go to Abunzi (community mediators) for trial,” Kanyandekwe said. 

“The cases would linger in Abunzi for long, yet this programme should not be taken slightly, it was, therefore, important that people, especially those in charge of implementing the programme, are processed through courts of law in case they err.”

Girinka programme is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, while Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA) is in charge of VUP and Ubudehe programmes.

Laetitia Nkunda, the LODA director-general, said malpractices in social protection initiatives have manifested in different forms, including cases where some leaders draw lists of beneficiary groups of which only a few are bona fide beneficiaries and most are those with financial means.

Others have been found to draw lists of ‘ghost’ beneficiaries and end up taking the money. 

“As a result, the limited budget we have does not protect the person it was intended to protect as it is misappropriated by a person with [financial] means, and this is a major setback to the development of the vulnerable,” Nkunda said.

She said they are still monitoring and assessing VUP and have not yet consolidated the report for the entire country.

The exercise, she said, started in around May and the report is expected to be ready in November. Reaching all the VUP beneficiaries countrywide is very demanding, she added.

Nkunda noted that they started on VUP financial services component.

“It is not easy, the beneficiaries of [VUP] financial services are 95,000 with 86,000 beneficiaries of direct support, and 15,000 for public works beneficiaries,” she said.

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