There is need for new measures to efficiently follow-up on delivery of government’s programmes designed to create wealth and support the poor, MPs and senior government officials and local leaders have said.
This was during a consultative meeting in the Senate yesterday, which attracted legislators and senior government officials and local leaders to assess poverty eradication strategies. They also discussed stringent measures for those who divert or swindle resources earmarked for the less privileged.
With hundreds of local officials arrested or jailed over embezzlement of poverty reduction funds under the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), the officials called for better mechanisms to monitor delivery of VUP and other social protection programmes.
“Lessons learned in the process so far should help us to deal with the remaining challenges,” said Senate president Bernard Makuza as he officiated at the opening of the meeting.
He said the consultative meeting, which attracted ministers, provincial governors, and district mayors, among others, was an opportunity for the leaders to improve their services to the people.
“Let’s strive to give Rwandan’s what’s within their rights; they don’t have to beg for it,” he said.
With about 39 per cent of Rwandans still living in poverty, including 16 per cent who live in extreme poverty, the government has initiated social protection programmes to help the poor.
They include VUP under which paid work opportunities are extended to the underprivileged as the elderly or disabled are given subsistence allowances, the One-Cow-per-Poor-Family through which the government donates cows to citizens in extreme poverty, Ubudehe that provides a framework under which people in their communities identify their neighbours’ level of poverty or income, and issuing health insurance for the poor.
The officials suggested that follow-up programmes be initiated to help eradicate poverty instead of relying on welfare.
They also suggested offering extension services, citing an example of the Girinka project. If poor people are given cows, they said, they should also be taught how to care for them so they can produce more milk for sale and consumption at home.
“I propose that we do a deeper analysis to see how to follow-up on those who benefited from the programmes to ensure that they don’t slip back into poverty,” MP Gabriel Semasaka said
The officials also called for stringent measures to punish those who embezzle money meant to support the poor, arguing that this would ensure successful implementation of the government’s social protection programmes
In one instance, where social protection funds were mismanaged, a total of Rwf1.25 billion VUP money was stolen in the Eastern Province alone over eight years since 2008, mostly spent on ghost projects created by local officials.
“We have good policies, but let’s work together and punish those who violate them if we are to succeed in uprooting poverty,” said Richard Gasana, the Mayor for Gatsibo District in the Eastern Province.
The governor for Southern Province, Marie-Rose Mureshyankwano, supported adoption of a tougher stance in punishing those who embezzle funds meant for the poor.
“We need to make sure that those who made mistakes are punished so that it doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Many of the officials also agreed that better mechanisms to monitor social protection programmes are needed, along with due diligence in efforts to punish those who embezzle funds.
“We need to step up monitoring for the delivery of these programmes. We need mechanisms and monitoring tools to ensure that we get timely information about how things are going,” said Alphonse Munyantwali, governor of the Western Province.
The government has pledged to eradicate extreme poverty among all Rwandans by the year 2020 whereby Rwanda is envisaged to have become a middle-income economy.