Northern Province authorities manipulated funds meant for the poor under social protection programme, an evaluation carried out under a new initiative, “Peer Review and Peer Learning,” has revealed.
The assessment was conducted by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) last month. The initiative was first piloted in the Western Provinve before being implemented in Northern Province last year.
The initiative, using September 2016 guidelines, is implemented by sectors and districts that assess and monitor one another on issues arising from poor service delivery.
Last month’s assessment results were presented during the launch of the new service delivery campaign in Karongi District, last week.
The peer review exercise was carried out in various sectors using 1,629
Trained inspectors who used checklist to examine 1,226 public and private institutions in Northern Province.
Speaking at the event, the executive secretary of Northern Province, Paul Jabo, warned local leaders against sabotaging social protection programmes.
“It is a serious scandal for leaders to collaborate with SACCOs to keep social protection funds on accounts for personal gain. They turn away project proposals so that the money generates interests that remain in their pockets. We have summoned them and we are pursuing them to return the money,” said Jabo.
The report revealed that Rwf1.5 billion was distributed to the poor in direct support and for public works under VUP programme. But another Rwf1.4 billion that was meant for small-scale projects for the poor was not given out but kept on accounts to generate interest for local authorities.
Jabo said Rwf3.5 billion was meant for loans for the poor but that local authorities included themselves among the beneficiaries and took more than Rwf30 million.
The report also revealed that Rwf415 million loaned to the poor is yet to be recovered.
The Minister of State in charge of Social Affairs and Social Protection, Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, condemned the habit of keeping money on accounts to generate interest for local leaders.
“This is a serious issue that we realised in all SACCOs. We are devising a solution by working with partner banks and Rwanda Cooperative Agency,” she said.
She called on authorities to help residents design bankable projects and monitor them to ensure loans are recovered.
“Funds under the social protection programme are specifically reserved for the poor and access should be eased because they are different from other ordinary bank clients,” she said.
Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the chief executive of RGB, said: “The initiative will be scaled up across the country so as to boost service delivery in different sectors to meet the target. It must be accelerated.”
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has allocated Rwf260 million for implementation of the Peer Review and Learning Initiative.
Meanwhile, officials said negotiations are underway to increase the budget, where Rwf1 million could be allocated to each of the 416 sectors so that the assessment is conducted at least twice a year.
Guidelines from the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs suggest two trainers in every province to train other inspectors on peer review.
So far, figures show that over 1,000 people were trained in Western Province and 1,620 in Northern Province.
The peer review and learning tool focuses on public finance management such as planning and budgeting systems, internally generated and other revenues, expenditure, procurement systems and books of accounts as well as assets management.
It also assesses accountability of social protection programmes, including VUP, Girinka, Ubudehe, Mutuelle de Sante, SACCOs, and service delivery.