PARLIAMENT - President Paul Kagame yesterday said that if the country is to live with its catchphrase of Zero tolerance on corruption, then every patriotic citizen should stand up against corruption and all practices related to it.
While addressing the 6th National Dialogue Conference that concluded yesterday at the parliamentary buildings, Kagame said that corruption is a societal cancer and it is high time everybody joins the struggle to completely eliminate it from the Rwandan society.
“We should commend the Office of the Ombudsman for the effort in following up corruption cases, but we should not stop at singing about it but also act. We have to make the lives of those caught in corruption scandals very uncomfortable so that others can learn from them,” said the President who chaired the two-day conference.
He was responding to a report the Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara presented to the meeting Thursday which pinned the National Police, the Customs office and the Judiciary as the most corrupt institutions according to research by his office.
The President, who was supposed to receive 2008 Performance Contract results and the 2009 commitments, instead recalled the Ombudsman back to the podium to shed more light on the corruption which he said was critical.
He also called upon the respective heads of the named institutions to come up and defend their positions before the nation.
In reference to the Police and Judiciary, Kagame said it was a pity that the institutions which are supposed to champion the battle against corruption turned out to be the most corrupt.
The President said that there is need to find out underlying reasons that make people corrupt so that they are addressed first, as a means of getting a sustainable solution.
“I don’t think those involved in corruption are the least paid people, in any case they are paid more than their transparent colleagues. I guess it’s just a question of greed and the temptation of being closer to money,” said the President, citing Customs officials as an example.
He emphasized the need for coordination between institutions and the office of the Ombudsman to expose all corruption cases.
The President said that punishing the culprits severely is part of the solutions as they will serve as living testimonies to those who had intentions of engaging in corruption and embezzling.
Kagame said that a system should be put in place to ensure that individuals caught in corruption scandals do not easily camouflage their past and get employed elsewhere.
“It’s very true that some of these people once dismissed on corruption charges somehow find their way into new jobs, this is too bad. We should publicize them so that wherever they go, they are noticed and none would employ them,” he added.
The Chief Justice Aloysia Cyanzaire regretted the fact that the judiciary is ranked among the most corrupt institutions which she mainly blamed on societal perception.
She however promised that everything was being done to save the image of the Judiciary, saying that they have started by mobilising employees in the judiciary telling them of the dangers of corruption, while those caught have not only been dismissed, but punished severely.
She added the process to revise laws on corruption is underway to ensure that the laws are appropriate and strong enough to punish corrupt individuals.
The acting Commissioner of Police, Mary Gahonzire also admitted that police remains one of the most corrupt institutions, especially the Traffic Police, but also pledged that efforts to revamp the image of her institution were underway.
Kagame, known for his strong stance on corruption, urged district heads who presented their 2009 Performance contracts to make the anti-corruption fight their top priority.
The President also promised more support in redefining the mandate of the Ombudsman’s office to investigate corruption cases across the country, as the Ombudsman had asked earlier.
The conference also suggested that there be regular meetings at all levels between leaders, the population and authorities responsible for the fight against corruption to discuss issues relating to corruption and embezzlement and how it can be dealt with.
The best performing districts in last year’s Performance Contracts were rewarded, with Nyamagabe beating the other 30 districts. It was followed by Rulindo and Nyagatare districts respectively.