MPs demand reforms to check loss of public funds in litigations

Legislators have questioned repetitive anomalies in both handling of civil servants’ termination, layoffs and dismissals and subsequent handling of legal suits whenever brought up, saying the Government cannot keep in constant lawsuits.
Habiyakare raises an issue during the meeting at Parliament yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira.)
Habiyakare raises an issue during the meeting at Parliament yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira.)

Legislators have questioned repetitive anomalies in both handling of civil servants’ termination, layoffs and dismissals and subsequent handling of legal suits whenever brought up, saying the Government cannot keep in constant lawsuits.

The legislators, who were yesterday reacting to the Public Service Commission annual report, pondered possibilities of having the law governing public service reviewed to cut down avenues of litigation.

 

According to the report that was presented to Parliament, yesterday, failure to observe basic human resource management laws and regulations led to loss of more than Rwf500 million in litigations involving public institutions.

 

The report, tabled before the joint sitting of Lower and Upper Houses shows, that the Government lost public service lawsuits at the rate of 75 per cent from year opening 2012 and closing 2015.

 

At least Rwf524 million was paid in compensation to the appellants.

The 154 lawsuits since 2012, according to the report, involved 51 public institutions, local governments and ministries.

A total 254 public servants are reported to have filed cases on different grounds, including illegal dismissal, breach and termination of contracts, provisional suspensions and downsizing.

Presenting the report, Francois Habiyakare, the chairperson of the commission, said the percentage has been on the increase since 2009 and that part of the cases taken to courts are avoidable if managers and or employers would follow keenly rules and regulations governing human resource management.

“Many cases are found to have fallen under the category of unlawful dismissal, and when a case is produced before court, it was noticed that advocates for public institutions are not well prepared. We realised that defence lawyers can’t produce strong evidence and that they keep changing from time to time,” he told the lawmakers.

But MPs were not in the mood to tolerate any further weaknesses that lead to loss of public funds.

MP Clotilde Mukakarangwa, said employers should make use of the legal services provided by lawyers in place, especially when it is about implementation of contract provisions between an employer and employee.

“All of these cases end up in courts having been developing before the eyes of legal advisers, many of them are about lack of coordination between in-house legal officers and employers. They are also about pending payments for staff which can take as many months as possible, why can’t this be avoided?” she posed.

The commission also faulted some institutions for ignoring recommendations which they said could have helped reverse the trend.

“Some petitions were filed before the commission and, upon scrutiny, we realised that there had been cases of unfairness, and the affected public servants took to courts and emerged winners, so we think that it was out of failure to take our earlier advice,” added Habiyakare.

MP Theogene Munyangeyo, another member of PAC, said there is a need to call for a revision of the law governing public service and labour to prevent a number of causes that lead to more litigations.

“We have seen that in a pre-trial case, a lawyer who represents the Government is likely to change during the case in substance, this is likely to affect the case” Munyangeyo said.

Losses on the rise

According to the report, the upward trend in lost litigation since 2009 moved from 67 cases up to 115 in 2015, representing 8.7 per cent increase and this, the report said, cost the Government about Rwf800 million in damages.

Since 2012, at least 23 of the 30 districts in the country were involved in court battles with their former employees, where Gicumbi District tops the rest to have been dragged to court most times lost all six cases it has been involved in; it was followed by Rwamagana District.

On the other hand, out of 19 public institutions dragged to court, former Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (the agency has since been split into two separate entities for energy and water and saniation) tops the rest because it appeared in court for more than 21 times and lost 18 of the cases involving Rwf58 million and $12,000 (Rwf9.7 million).

The National Bank of Rwanda follows the utility since it was dragged to courts 15 times and it secured victory on eight of the 15 cases it was involved in at an amount hovering around Rwf18.5 million.

The Public Service Commission also said there will be need for more training of managers, close cooperation with the ministry in charge of public service and labour, reforms of internal disciplinary committees, and timely payment of dues to the staff.

The report, which is now subject to more scrutiny at a committee level, also called on the Ministry of Justice to fast-track all processes in place to ensure recovery of lost funds, which mostly were lost through litigations, and to hold accountable individuals who might have caused those losses.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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