PAC cautions against unlawful diversion of funds

Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday warned government officials against diversion of funds earmarked for specific activities, saying it was unacceptable. The parliamentarians sounded the warning as they grilled bureaucrats from the Ministry of Commerce and its affiliate institutions during the ongoing probe into the Auditor General 2009/10 report.
MINICOM PS, Emmanuel Hategeka (R) alongside the director of finance African Gatera, before the PAC at parliament buildings yesterday.  The New Times / T. Kisambira
MINICOM PS, Emmanuel Hategeka (R) alongside the director of finance African Gatera, before the PAC at parliament buildings yesterday. The New Times / T. Kisambira

Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday warned government officials against diversion of funds earmarked for specific activities, saying it was unacceptable.

The parliamentarians sounded the warning as they grilled bureaucrats from the Ministry of Commerce and its affiliate institutions during the ongoing probe into the Auditor General 2009/10 report.

MPs were particularly irked by a section in the report where Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) diverted over Rwf 52 million provided by the ministry to finance the rehabilitation of a warehouse to accommodate a mycotoxin laboratory.

Instead of using the money for the intended purpose, RBS used it to fund other activities, without the consent of the parent ministry.

Officials from the ministry were blamed for letting this come to pass, unimpeded.

Despite not being in the ministry at the time the AG’s report was compiled, current officials – particularly the Permanent Secretary, Emmanuel Hategeka, and the Director of Finance (DAF), African Gatera, faced the wrath of MPs who cautioned against repetition of similar oversight.

According to lawmakers, such incidents might create room for ill intentioned people to steal public funds.

PAC Chairperson, Juvenal Nkusi, and other members, did not take matters lightly as they indicated that all involved – including the RBS top brass – should have been penalised.

 “Does the mistake just pass like that? Who was responsible for diverting the money, or what normally happens since that agency is under your ministry?” Hon. Jean Baptiste Musemakweli wanted to know.

Hategeka admitted the omission by the implementing agency.

He told the session that instead of using the money for its planned objective, RBS bought computers and office stationery.

In March, the ministry summoned the RBS chief over the matter.

“We told him that such things are not right, and even told him that they should at least use it in preliminary activities to do with establishing the laboratory,” Hategeka explained.

 “They also informed us that the DAF who was responsible was fired,” Gatera added, however, Nkusi remained unconvinced, noting that the then head of RBS should also have been punished as the chief budget manager of the agency.

Hategeka said nothing much was done to reprimand the RBS boss, apart from the ministry asking him to explain in writing and the letter he got to inform him that what was done was unacceptable.

“That [the letters] too, in administrative procedures, it is like a punishment also. It goes into record,” he said.

According to the AG’s report, another case involving diversion of funds was noted in Gatsibo District where over Rwf 110 million, earmarked for specific education sector activities in the district, was withdrawn from the education account and transferred to the district’s operational bank account without the District Council’s approval.

According to the AG’s report, efforts to establish what the funds were utilised for after their deposit into the operational account were difficult due to the absence of supporting documents.

james.karuhanga@newtimes.co.rw

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