What do you do when you suspect infringement of public procurement procedures, money laundering, infractions related to taxes and revenues, environment etc? The answer is simple; blow the whistle.
Whistle blowing, which is the disclosure of information that someone knows or suspects concerning misdemeanors and maladministration related to a public or a private institution is not an entirely new phenomenon in the Rwandan context. Disclosure of information was and is seen as an act of patriotism and protection of national interest.
A lot of efforts have been put in setting up institutions to ensure that leaders are accountable. A case in point is the office of the Ombudsman. The office is seeking an amendment that will give it more powers to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
Currently, the office is limited to recommending administrative measures. The new amendment seeks to give it powers to request the Supreme Court to reconsider and review judgments rendered by any court, if it feels that justice has not been done.
As the country’s top leadership strengthens its stance on accountability, more avenues should be put in place to involve the general public in providing leads on suspected cases of abuse of office. Such cases can be better reported by ‘insiders’ before even the office of the auditor general or the ombudsman get wind of them.
For this to happen, whistle blowers need to be protected. Whistle blowing is a risky engagement which can result in persecution, physical harm or even death. At the same time it is a duty of every patriotic citizen who would love to advance the cause of accountability in society. It can be equated to a situation where a soldier goes to the frontline to defend his or her country despite the risk of death. He or she goes to war anyway. Threats to whistle blowers are well documented both at the local and international scene.
On July 16, this paper reported the arrest of three men in Gicumbi District suspected to have destroyed a house belonging to a whistleblower. Pismas Mironko’s house was destroyed after he was suspectedof tipping off local authorities about illicit liquor trade.
A draft law relating to the protection of whistleblowers is before parliament. It provides for promotion of general interest by protecting persons who disclose information relating to offences, misconduct and maladministration from public and private institutions.
It states in part: ‘Employee or any other person is not liable, civilly, criminally or under administrative process, for making public interest disclosure when he/she did it in a good faith.’ There is not doubt that Rwandans will be encouraged to come forward and reveal information on corruption once this law is enacted. But the law is not an end in itself.
It will take collective efforts for Rwandans to become whistleblowers by providing leads on how and where the crime has been or was committed in order to make Rwanda corruption free.