Time up, says the Government. And it’s woe unto those who owe the Government monies. The Government says enough is enough and has announced plans to drag its debtors to court.
After a meeting with lawyers from public institutions, yesterday, Justice minister Johnston Busingye said those who owe government had been given enough time to pay up and new measures had been put in place to recover the money.
“We have already released a list of the debtors and that list can be found on the Ministry of Justice web site. We were about 200 people pursuing these debtors but we have added another 320 bailiffs meaning that the speed we are using to come after you is even faster. I doubt that there is anyone right now who can claim that we did not give them enough time to pay up,” he said.
To speed up the process, Busingye said public institutions directly linked to the debts are expected to collaborate with the bailiffs.
“Whatever money has been lost was from a district, a ministry, or any other government institution. We have about 320 independent court bailiffs and any government institution where this particular amount came from is expected to take the lead to deal with a bailiff to force that person to pay back,” he said.
Busingye said the Government had listed about Rfw1.6 billion in debts in the last one-and-a-half years, and that, so far, only about Rwf400 million had been collected.
He warned the debtors to pay up before they are taken to court and reminded them that the fees expected from them would increase with the use of bailiffs.
“What I can tell those who have refused to pay is that they will also be liable for the bailiff’s fees. We advise the debtors to pay up but whoever waits to be taken to court should remember that court cases are tiring, expensive, and should the Government win in the end, it will be a difficult situation for them,” he said.
Christian Iyabuze, a legal officer for Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA), wondered how the Government intended to recover its money from people who had escaped from the country, tried in absentia, lost the case, and ordered to pay the government.
Busingye said it was important that debts are not forgotten, no matter how long it has taken for them to be recovered.
“Being a fugitive is something that has its own treatment. That said, we must be clear that changes in the law have to be made about writing off debts. If you have a debt, perhaps it should follow you up to your great grandchildren. It’s no longer possible to run forever, there is Interpol and 193 countries work together on such cases so we are going to find them, simply don’t give up,” the minister said.
Jean d’Arc Rekamuhinka, a legal advisor for Special Guarantee Fund, said the agency she works for often ends up paying for mistakes made by its beneficiaries.
“There are many cases where a person that you are taking to court is too poor to afford legal costs. Pending directives that concern the poor should be sped up so that we understand how to move forward,” she said.
Jean Damascene Ngiriwonsanga, from the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), said there were issues of people who owed government a lot of money and had been ordered by courts to pay, but the value of their assets was less than the debts.
“What do you do if the person has been taken to court and they have lost the case and yet their property that is up for auction is not even half the value of the money they owe?” he wondered.
For people who might not have the capacity to pay, Busingye said a law was being prepared to give those people a choice of carrying out public works over a given period of time.