There are some gaps that need to be plugged if the Office of the Ombudsman is to successfully play its role of combating corruption in the country, a new study has shown.
The study assessed the effectiveness of anti-corruption commissions in Eastern Africa.
The study, conducted by Transparency International Rwanda in partnership with Open Society Foundations, sought to gauge the relevance and effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies by assessing their independence, mandate, available resources, national ownership, capacities and strategic positioning.
Johnson Jeggan Grey, the head of anti-corruption cluster in Open Society Foundations Africa Regional Office, said Rwanda is among the least corrupt countries because of the powers and the mandate of the Ombudsman as well as political will that other countries can learn from.
“Rwanda leads the way in the prevention of corruption which was made possible by political will at the highest level. Corruption is a scourge on this continent where billions of dollars are lost annually which demonstrates the need for commitment and resources to fight corruption,” he said.
Immaculee Ingabire, the chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda, said Rwanda’s performance in international corruption reports proves that the Ombudsman’s office has been effective.
She, however, said improvements need to be made in human resource, and budget support, among others.
According to the study, the Penal Code defines corruption but does not classify embezzlement and mismanagement of public funds as crimes punishable by the anti-corruption legislation.
Aloysie Cyanzayire, the chief ombudsman, said a review of the Penal Code, which is underway, is expected to address that problem.
The study showed that the budget allocated to the Ombudsman declined from Rwf2.04 billion in 2010/11 to Rwf1.3 billion in 2015/16. It was suggested that the Ombadsman’s budget be increased to correlate with the additional tasks was given.
The study also recommends increase of staff in the unit in charge of preventing and fighting injustice because only 54 per cent of complaints were solved by the unit in 2015/16.
It also recommends that grand corruption cases should be given priority. The office was asked to make effort to improve the effectiveness of the verification of asset declaration as well as sensitise the public that the office is an institution of last resort only.
Cyanzayire said: “This assessment and other studies are in the logic of complementarity and collaboration and the findings will contribute to the improvement of our strategy. The structure of the Office of the Ombudsman is being revised to fill gaps in the departments and this will go hand in hand with capacity building,” she said.
“We take note of the recommendations from the assessment and we can assure you that they will be implemented in conjunction with stakeholders.”
Daniel Batidam, chairperson of the African Union Advisory Board on corruption, said despite improvements over the years, a lot needs to be done to check corruption on the continent.
The African Union declared 2018 anti-corruption year.