RGB wants religious leaders to declare external grants

Religious organisations in the country will be required to declare any financial support they receive to the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), according to new draft legislation.
Christians attend mass at Amahoro stadium last year. / File
Christians attend mass at Amahoro stadium last year. / File

Religious organisations in the country will be required to declare any financial support they receive to the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), according to new draft legislation.

Justus Kangwage, head of political parties and civil society organisations at RGB, said the draft legislation, yet to be presented to Parliament, would help faith based organisations become more accountable and serve the beneficiaries better.

Article 10 of the new draft law stipulates that any financial support granted to an organisation must be channeled through the organisation’s account located in a bank or financial institutions accredited in Rwanda.

“Any organisation receiving any financial or material support must inform the Board within five (5) days from the date the support reached the organisation. An organisation is prohibited from receiving any support from individuals or organisations characterised by terrorism acts or other criminality,” reads the law.

Any organisation that contravenes its provisions would be prosecuted in accordance with relevant laws.

Other articles concern freedom to public speech, financial autonomy where despite every organisation enjoying financial, moral and administrative autonomy, Rwanda Governance Board can issue instructions relating to any organisation’s financial use, with the aim of protecting its beneficiaries’ interests.

Speaking during the consultative meeting in Kigali on Thursday, Kangwage said it was an opportunity for religious leaders to discuss the draft law, add their inputs.

“The law will help us move from ideological obscurity to ideological clarity, it is a foundation we can build on to achieve a strong economy; though the law is about faith, it has impact on economy, social welfare and international relations. You need to be crafters of the future so the future generation will not blame us,” he said.

He insisted that religious leaders should understand that declaring their wealth, especially grants, would not have a negative impact, adding they should internalise it as something that does not concern them but even their successors.

“You need to look at the draft legislation from both sides, this should be in the public interest as it would be useful in the next generations, look at this draft legislation in the context of next 15-20 years,” he told church leaders.

Call for more time

However, religious leaders expressed reservations on some articles and asked for more time to discuss the draft, add their inputs and submit their position paper to Rwanda Governance Board before it is submitted to parliament.

Fr. Jean Damascene Maniraho of the Catholic Church said the law was good but it contradicts the Church’s guidelines.

“You are also asking us to report financial support granted to us but one should report to the donor, we give reports to the one who gave us money and it would be hard for us to report to RGB,” said Maniriho.

Bishop Dr Fidèle Masengo, Four Square Church’s legal representative, said it would be hard for faith based organisations to report any form of grant the receive as some are meant for other purposes such as education, health, among others.

“There is need to be specific which money is to be declared because we are asked to report funds we get as a faith based organisation but there are cases where one can get support which is not directly for the organisation but an affiliated institution such as schools, health facilities, among others,” he said.

He also said that it would not be practical to report such funds within five days as transactions and documents cannot be available within such a short period.

“Even if we needed to report funding from abroad we can do that in a report but not in five days as stipulated in the draft law,” he added.

Civil society organisations have been given two weeks to have submitted their inputs.

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