Officials at the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) have come under fire during the ongoing public hearings by the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has warned the agency against what it calls wasteful spending.
The officials were on Tuesday appearing before PAC at the Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura in connection with irregularities documented in the 2014/2015 Auditor General’s report.
The report, for instance, indicated that RAB gave out seeds worth Rwf114 million on credit and yet it did not record the arrears in its books of accounts.
The AG report also showed that about 20 per cent of the seeds which were bought by RAB were past their germination period.
The seeds, the lawmakers heard, were later sold for consumption.
RAB was also faulted for issuing tenders worth over Rwf800 million without observing standard procedure – that required them to seek the green light from the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA). RAB attributed this to the fact that the tender was urgent, but admitted that by doing so they broke the rules and pledged not to repeat the same anomalies.
Commenting on the existing arrears, the Head of Corporate Services Division at RAB, Violet Nyirasangwa, said “the reality is that after the adoption of the policy that requires people to pay for improved seeds before getting them, there are some people who had no money to pay for the seeds and we decided that, rather than have them miss out on the farming season, they be given the seeds on credit.”
RAB acting Director General, Daphrose Gahakwa, said the body had since taken corrective measures against past irregularities, which, she said, she regretted.
“We promise you that those issues will not happen again,” she told PAC members.
“It was a mistake on our part not to capture the arrears in our books but we are already asking them (debtors) to pay up, some have already done so,” she added.
On the issue of seeds that were bought by RAB and yet they were not suitable for growing, Dr Gahakwa said: “I must admit that it was a case of poor planning. We are focusing on improvement. The issue of improved seeds is a top priority for us.”
But the Auditor General, Obadiah Biraro, who attended the hearing, said “these seeds that RAB has no control over are a loss.”
“I think RAB should be seeking support on issues that are difficult for them to address, be it structural, financial or advocacy,” he said.
PAC chairperson Juvenal Nkusi recalled that, in 2013, about 1,000 tonnes of seeds were transformed into cow feeds. “At that time the AG made recommendations that were not implemented, now the same thing has happened again,” he said.
Of the 123 recommendations by the Auditor General in his 2013/2014 report, RAB is said to have implemented about 70 per cent of them.