Members of Parliament have faulted the leaders of Bugesera District for acting contrary to advice from the Public Service Commission, resulting into a court case that government lost and was consequently ordered to pay Rwf9 million in damages.
The members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs were speaking yesterday as part of continued inquiry into reasons behind a growing trend of local government entities losing litigations, leading to the loss of taxpayers’ money.
The case is related to a 2012 tender for the construction of Bugesera District headquarters, that was initially expected to cost Rwf1 billion, only for the project to drift into in a web of alleged corrupt dealings that later led to a loss of some Rwf500 million.
The money is believed to have been lost in the form of bribes among district officials and payments to allegedly unauthorised representatives of the contractor.
District authorities linked the irregularities to the district procurement officer, Fred Nzeyimana, resulting into a string of arrests and dismissals.
The project has since stalled, even after the district made an extra payment of Rwf200 million, with officials saying the contract now needs another Rwf500 million to complete the works, which had initially been envisaged to be completed in a year.
Nzeyimana is one of the people that were dismissed, albeit against the recommendation of the Public Service Commission, which had only called for administrative measures against him.
After his contract was terminated, Nzeyimana dragged Bugesera District to court seeking damages and reinstatement into his job. Court ordered government to pay him Rwf9 million in compensation but rejected his attempt to be reinstituted. Both parties filed appeals on the aspects they lost and a hearing is set next month.
In Parliament, yesterday, MPs heard that the court case might have been avoided had the district respected the advice from the commission.
“We looked at every individual who was implicated in the saga and decided that some should be fired and others reprimanded. Nzeyimana was one of the those who were to be reprimanded but the district did not listen to us and here we are today, losing a case, paying fines and probably paying more if we lose the appeal,” the Executive Secretary of the Public Service Commission, Angelina Muganza, told the parliamentarians yesterday.
Muganza said that her commission had decided that Nzeyimana only be reprimanded because the mistakes he made in the contract were due to lack of legal advice.
She admitted that Nzeyimana’s case was one of the most complicated that her office had ever dealt with.
But, the Mayor of Bugesera, Emmanuel Nsanzumuhire, was adamant the district had not committed any error in terminating Nzeyimana’s contract.
“Money ended up in the wrong hands because of Fred Nzeyimana, he was the procurement officer and, therefore, in charge of drafting contracts and tender documents,” he told the lawmakers.
MP John Ruku-Rwabyoma said that the litigation would have been avoided had the district listened to the commission’s advice.
He said that it was time for people to take responsibility for their mistakes and advised those concerned to sit with Nzeyimana and reach an out of court settlement.
“He may not be clean but he used the system to beat the system. It is disturbing that the government continues to lose money over avoidable mistakes,” he said.
The Spokesman of the Ministry of Local Government Ladislas Ngendahimana, who was also present during yesterday’s session, said that Nzeyimana’s involvement in the scam was too significant to keep him in the job.
“You have to look at the structure to understand the scale of this man’s involvement. Allowing Nzeyimana back in office would have amounted to a dangerous precedent,” he said.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Social Affairs Parliamentary Committee Alphonsine Mukarugema urged public institutions to take advice from relevant authorities in good faith as opposed to acting to the contrary and landing government in otherwise avoidable losses.
“You should have listened to the directive from the Public Service Commission. The Commission was put in place by law and there is a reason why it exists. If you had followed their advice, all this could have been avoided. You should sit and review the case and make sure that you win the appeal case or negotiate out of court,” she said.
Nsanzumuhire admitted that the project remains far from complete, four years down the road.
Meanwhile, Muganza said that all public entities are now required to seek legal advice from government representatives before sealing any deal with contractors.
The measure was taken to reverse a trend that had seen government lose billions in lawsuits resulting from poorly drafted government contracts.