Joseph had gone for days without water over a technical issue at his home in Kanombe. When a field officer from Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) finally showed up at his house, he was more than happy to fix the problem, but on condition that Joseph gives him money to buy materials to use. Joseph gave the WASAC worker money to buy the items he needed. But the WASAC employee was taking longer to return and the worried Joseph immediately went to social media where he posted thus; “I have given this WASAC worker money to fix my tap, hope he comes back.”
The next thing, Joseph received a phone call from WASAC asking him about the details of the WASAC staff and the money he gave him.
The WASAC employee was consequently sacked and recently the company took out adverts in the media warning staff and the public against such acts of corruption.
Joseph’s experience is not unique; many people have had an encounter with public servants who ask for inducement before providing a service while some citizens also try to bribe to get favours in different ways.
In the recent past a number of people have been arrested over corruption including the big fish in public offices.
This is on the backdrop of the global Corruption Perception Index, released early this year that placed Rwanda alongside Mauritius as third least corrupt country in sub-Saharan Africa. The annual report produced by Transparency International, ranked Rwanda 50th least corrupt country globally.
However, some observers are wary that this impeccable record in fight against corruption is under threat and more needs to be done before it reaches alarming levels.
A number of institutions are under investigations over corruption and mismanagement of public funds.
Statistics show an upward trend in corruption cases over the years.
What is going on?
Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, the chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda, says despite measures in place to fight graft, it is still a problem, and some people have literally made it part of their behaviour.
She says everyone should keep their hands off corruption because it comes with dire repercussions. She also calls for a review of the law on corruption to fix some loopholes.
“Laws against corruption are in place but there are some articles that seem to be missing. For example, I think that if one is charged with a corruption case, they should not be released on bail, they should only be released when proven innocent,” she suggests.
Ingabire believes that another constraint impeding the fight against corruption lies in the difficulty of getting evidence for some cases.
She also warns society against glorifying the corrupt. To her, corrupt folks are not stigmatised enough.
“A person found guilty of corruption has to be seen as a problem in society. If one is a leader and is found guilty of corruption, that person shouldn’t be given another chance to lead anywhere. And for an ordinary citizen, if found guilty of abetting corruption, it should follow them wherever,” Ingabire says.
The chairperson also cites the challenge of local leaders who fuel corruption.
“We request people to act as whistleblowers and pinpoint corrupt leaders, anyone who is suspected should be suspended from their duties, at least as the investigations are being done. This is why I appreciate the police because for them, they handle it this way and this scares off potential perpetrators,” Ingabire adds.
Thierry-Kevin Gatete, a human rights lawyer and activist, also agrees that corruption is becoming a bigger threat as people devise new tricks to avoid being detected.
He says corruption is rife at different levels in the country and there is need to address it with urgency.
Gatete describes corruption as a cancer that mutates and that responsible stakeholders need to beware of this and be ahead in terms of detecting and preventing it.
“Corruption is a cancer, the measures have to be holistic and prevention measures are always better when dealing with cancer,” he says.
Like Ingabire, he believes that jailing and firing the guilty is another way of cutting the vice.
“Fire anyone who is corrupt, jail them but on the other hand, give incentives to those who are not corrupt. Corruption is multi-dimensional, the answers need to be multi-dimensional too,” Gatete says.
Is it a breakdown in the moral fabric of society?
Pastor Florence Mugisha of New Life Bible Church says strong moral values are key in fighting corruption. She warns that a life led without the guidance of values is the main source of such immoral acts.
Mugisha believes that the church has a role to play in this fight by working together with the government.
“The church has to stand firm and speak out against corruption to supplement government efforts; both parties have to work together to attain the required goals,” Mugisha says.
For Alexandre Babwiruyumva, a local leader in Ubumwe, a cell in Kacyiru, corruption is a vice that destroys the country alongside its values and development efforts.
He warns that being corrupt has so many repercussions; people need to understand this and not be selfish by only thinking about their own interests.
“Corruption has to be stopped. People should endeavour to have integrity because one simple error can lead to effects that can ripple through your family and the entire society,” he says.
Babwiruyumva observes that corruption is common in service delivery and that people in leadership positions are susceptible, if one has no integrity, they can easily fall victim.
“Some people are impatient; they want to get certain services without passing through the required process, as a result to resort to corruption.
Being principled should start with me as leader but then you as a citizen should be responsible too,” Babwiruyumva says.
Continuous sensitisation is the way to go if we are to win the war against corruption, he advises.
Police speaks out?
Police spokesperson, Theo Badege, says corruption is rated among high impact crimes and that to win the war against the vice; there has to be continuous efforts and determination.
For Police to wage a successful fight on corruption, Badege says that they first had to combat it internally because one cannot fight corruption when they themselves are corrupt.
“The measures are tight; anyone implicated in corruption is prosecuted. Awareness campaigns through different stakeholders are in place and it helps to work as a team such that there are no loopholes in the system,” he says.
Protection of whistle blowers, enforcement of e-policing, where most things are done online, for example, in the traffic department, in a way limits possible cases of corruption, Badege adds.
He believes that with time efforts will surely yield results.
“Corruption had become more like a culture so eradication of something which had become a culture cannot be done overnight but we hope for the best and continue with the efforts,” Badege says.
Ingabire agrees that efforts are in place though not yet enough as required.
“Campaigns are good but one thing for sure is that action is needed because we talk but we don’t put what we say into action, this is a problem. More efforts in terms of punishment ought to be put in place too.”