Corruption charges rock Labour ministry

Accusations and counter-accusations have rocked the ministry of Public Service, Skills Development and Labour (Mifotra), with senior figures involved being two ministers. Public Service Minister Manasseh Nshuti is being accused by the ministry’s former director of planning, Jules Sebahizi for forging a graft charge against him, and subsequently firing him. He also accuses the minister of leading to his resultant arrest and the pending case against him. Sebahizi said Nshuti used one Peter Olouchi, a Kenyan businessman, who is the Director General of the Kicukiro-based Rwanda Tourism College (RTC), to allege that he (Olouchi) bribed him for services.
Accusations and counter-accusations have rocked the ministry of Public Service, Skills Development and Labour (Mifotra), with senior figures involved being two ministers. Public Service Minister Manasseh Nshuti is being accused by the ministry’s former director of planning, Jules Sebahizi for forging a graft charge against him, and subsequently firing him. He also accuses the minister of leading to his resultant arrest and the pending case against him. Sebahizi said Nshuti used one Peter Olouchi, a Kenyan businessman, who is the Director General of the Kicukiro-based Rwanda Tourism College (RTC), to allege that he (Olouchi) bribed him for services. Olouchi has also confirmed the allegations, which have since been vehemently refuted by both Nshuti and the State Minister for Skills Development and Labour, Angelina Muganza. In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Olouchi who is seeking pay from the ministry over unpaid training services for some retrenched workers, charges that both Nshuti and Muganza requested him to cook up a bribery lie against Sebahizi to have him arrested. The Kenyan said that the ministry owes Rwanda Tourism College a tune of up to Frw14 million and that he has been demanding pay for a period of two years now. “It all started when I was in Kenya and the received a text message from my secretary telling me to come back to Rwanda and collect my money (from the ministry). In response to this urgent message I returned to Kigali on June 24th 2007,” Olouchi said. He said the ministry had contracted his college to train retrenched civil servants in travel and tourism management services under the Civil Service Re-conversion Training Programme. “When I reached at the Minister’s office, I met (State) Minister Muganza, on Monday June 25 who had personally called me to check if I had arrived in Kigali and invited me to her office. She then arranged another meeting between me and Nshuti on the same day to discuss the payment of the unpaid money,” he explained. He said the second meeting was chaired by Muganza at Nshuti’s request. While in that meeting, he said, the Minister Nshuti informed him about a meeting he had had with one Sebantu Rwigema (Olouchi’s landlord). He said during that meeting Nshuti told him that Sebahizi was corrupt. However Olouchi said he immediately expressed his reservations over Sebantu’s involvement, saying he had his different dealings with his him. Sebahizi had reportedly turned down Sebantu’s efforts to have Mifotra give him part of the rent money owed to him by Olouchi (from the Kenyan arrears at the ministry). Olouchi claims that his meeting with two ministers ended with Nshuti insisting that he (Olouchi) must help him ‘deal’ with Sebahizi in exchange for his long over due payments. “I agreed to assist the Minister (by cooking up a lie) and he promised to process my payment immediately. He told me he would call me to pick my money as soon as possible,” Olouchi said. The next day, he said, Nshuti called him again to his office. Upon arriving at the minister’s office, Olouchi said, he found a CID officer and that Nshuti told him that he wanted him to go with the policeman to the CID headquarters over Sebahizi’s case. “When I arrived at the Minister’s office, I immediately requested for my money and he said it would be ready as soon as I return from the CID offices. “When I asked him whether I should let the Kenyan Embassy know about the issue, he (Nshuti) said it was not necessary since I was not in any danger and that I had no diplomatic immunity,” added the Kenyan national. Olouchi blamed both Nshuti and Muganza equally. “They used me in a way both of them had plotted and which they were sure I would buy.” CID accused Olouchi also pointed an accusing finger to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for violating his rights. “The CID officer hijacked me from the Minister’s office and took me for interrogation,” he said. The RTC boss further said the CID detective questioned him against his will, adding that the trend of questioning prompted him ask him to read for him his rights before proceeding. “The officer however insisted that it was not necessary for him to read to what the law provides for me (regarding police interrogations) since I was not under arrest. He said all I needed to do was to give him little information concerning my dealings with Mifotra and Sebahizi in particular since he had nothing in his file to help him follow the case.” said Olouchi. He said he later agreed to cooperate with the CID and answered the officer’s questions, but insisted he was coerced into it. “The made-up interrogation was recorded,” Olouchi said. Olouchi said his motivation to say lies against Sebahizi was purely aimed at getting his money as the minister had promised. He said the officer thereafter asked him to fill a form written in Kinyarwanda, and told him that it was normal procedure for all interrogation sessions. “I vehemently disown the statements as they were recorded and used illegally by the CID Officer. I signed the forms without knowing that I was authorizing him to charge me and take me to jail,” Olouchi furiously said. “My rights were violated by the CID officer; Nshuti and Muganza have also used me to settle scores with Sebahizi,” he claimed. Olouchi also accused the CID officer for have acted under the influence and instructions of the two ministers whom, he said were hell bent on punishing Sebahizi. Sebahizi co-accused Both Olouchi and his co-accused Sebahizi have since denied having had any direct contacts with each other. Sebahizi claims that Sebantu (Olouchi’s landlord) once stormed his office demanding that the ministry pay him the money Olouchi owed him since the latter had left his house without paying him. “I told him (Sebantu) that it won’t be possible and advised him to come with Olouchi so that we reconcile them,” Sebahizi said. He went to say that when Olouchi was later called to the ministry, he just ‘got mad’ and stormed out of the office upon seeing Sebantu in Sebahizi’s office. “Subsequently, I advised Sebantu to seek legal redress if he really had a genuine case.” He said Sebantu did as advised and then came back to the ministry with a court document but the ministry still refused to pay him. Sebahizi said the reason why Mifotra could not pay Sebantu was simply because no such provision was in the contract between Olouchi and the ministry. “Sebantu got angry at me and started spreading rumours against me that I was bribed by Olouchi not to pay him. He even threatened me that I was going to be in trouble if he did not get his money,” Sebahizi claimed. He added: “He decided to approach Minister Muganza and accused me that I am corrupt and that Olouchi had bribed me. Muganza then extended the rumour to Nshuti.” Sebahizi wondered the reason why Olouchi would have bribed him yet his contract was almost running out. “He was only demanding his money from the ministry.” “In the end, the minister (Nshuti) gave me a dismissal letter saying I was involved in corruption and, before I left office, he called policemen to arrest me,” he said. He went on: “The reason why Nshuti had to plot my downfall is because I had refused to cooperate with him by testifying against former (Mifotra) Secretary General Charlotte Mukankusi.” Charged Sebahizi: “He (Nshuti) requested me to testify against Mukankusi but I did not know anything about the accusations. Minister Nshuti wanted me to testify but I refused to abuse my integrity by coming up with a false testimony. That was the origin of his grudge against me.” Earlier this year, Mukankusi was fired from her job and thrown into prison on corruption-related charges. She was released on bail before the prosecution dropped the charges for lack of sufficient evidence. The charges were hinged on allegations that she was involved in securing a Masters scholarship for one Januario Mucyo, who is related to her. Minister Nshuti aborted the move, before reportedly causing Mukankusi’s sacking. Nshuti denies However, Minister Nshuti strongly dismissed the allegations regarding Sebahizi case. But he insisted that the former planning director was sought the bribe from the RTC chief. “Olouchi himself told me that Sebahizi solicited a bribe in form of money from him” He said: “He even told me he informed his Ambassador (Kenyan Ambassador to Rwanda) that he had bribed an official to get him the contract.” “We don’t tolerate corruption and the normal government procedure is that when an official is implicated in such crimes, we suspend them. That is what happened,” charged Nshuti. “The CID just informed me that they were coming to arrest him. I did not tell him because I did not have to,” he added. While he admitted he had no concrete proof that Sebahizi was bribed, Nshuti remained far from ruling out the possibility the crime was committed. “Proving corruption is not easy but if you are implicated we just suspend you and you only come back to office when a court of law proves you innocent.” Asked why he did not give a statement in court as a person who sued Sebahizi and whether the ministry will appeal if he was proved innocent, he said: “We did not appear before court but we have to appeal at any time and we will go after this until the last moment.” Habyara accused Kenyan When contacted, CID boss Costa Habyara sounded furious with the case. He strongly asserted that Olouchi is a corrupt man. “I don’t care whether he is being used by the ministers to forge a lie. I only go by recorded information and what he told us during interrogation. Whatever he said contains nothing like he was told to forge a lie by anyone,” Habyara said. Habyara said that Olouchi’s file indicates that he gave money to two individuals. “His file doesn’t indicate that he was used; instead it indicates that he gave about Frw 300, 000 to one Peter Gatare and over Frw3 million to Sebahizi.” Gatare is a senior official in the Ministry of Education. However Olouchi claimed that he once hired Gatare as a consultant and that CID was just dragging him (Gatare) in the case. However, Habyara emphasized that the CID made extensive investigation and proved that the duo (Olouchi and Gatare) had some corruption links. “We investigated all the implicated parties and found out that Frw3 million on Sebahizi’s bank account. He could not justify where he got the money,” said Habyara The CID chief however added that the case is in court and that everything is to be sorted out by judges. “In any case these people were simply released on bail. It does not make them innocent as they will be sentenced if found guilty.” Olouchi insisted that he was proved innocent and the court set him free. According to the law, if the police arrest someone, the suspect is handed to the prosecution in three days which must also produce the accused in court within seven days. After the hearing, it can decide to release that person on bail upon request or keep him in jail pending further investigations. The suspect can appeal to High Court after 30 days. The President of the High Court Johnston Busingye confirmed the duo was released on bail. “They were granted bail,” Busingye said in reference to Sebahizi and Olouchi. The New Times learnt that Gatare was also briefly detained but was released and is now working normally at the Education ministry. Muganza dismisses Olouchi’s allegations Muganza at first declined to comment saying the case was in the courts, but later rubbished Olouchi’s accusations when our reporter told her that he implicated her as well. “If that man claims that he was told to cook up a lie and he did it, then he is a total criminal, but I don’t believe him in the first place. There is no way Minister Nshuti would have done such a thing,” she protested. Muganza added: “I am trying to imagine how someone comes all the way from his country to come here and play dirty games, fooling people. Rwanda will not tolerate that and that is why he has to face justice.” Asked why the ministry was acting in favour of Sebantu (Olouchi’s landlord), she said: “It is true there was no provision for that in the contract we signed with Olouchi but Sebantu had sought legal intervention because Olouchi owed him some money.” “In this case, we did not act in favour of Sebantu but the law has a provision on confiscation. It is in that regard that we had to follow the law though we have not given out the money yet,” said Muganza Kenyan Ambassador speaks The Kenyan Ambassador to Rwanda Alex Keter said he is aware of the case. “I am aware that he (Olouchi) was arrested and charged with corruption. After learning about the case, I sent a taskforce from the chancellor’s office to go and see him,” he said. Asked on the procedures of arresting a Kenyan citizen in a foreign country, he said: “Let it be a Kenyan, Ugandan or anyone else, this is an independent country; therefore, he has to comply with the Rwandan laws and he has to comply to the judicial system as long as he gets a fair trial.” Olouchi has sworn never to go back to the ministry. “I swear never to meet Minister Nshuti again. I have requested our (Kenyan) Embassy to claim my money on my behalf”. Genesis In April 2005, RTC made a written application to Mifotra to be considered for provision of Travel and Tourism Management Training Services under the Civil Service Re-conversion Training Program which was underway at the time. The application was addressed to the then secretary general Vincent Karega at the time Andre Bumaya was still at the ministry’s helm. Karega is now the State Minister for Industry and Commerce. Olouchi said his proposal was discussed by Mifotra officials who later passed it. The ministry later informed Olouchi that a meeting was underway and his trainings would be attended by all the retrenched civil servants, and training institutions. During the meeting, various training institutions were given a chance to showcase their training services to the prospective students to choose the courses and the training institutions they individually preferred. Eighteen students chose RTC. In May 2005, Olouchi was invited to sign a contract for the provision of Travel and Tourism Management courses for whose that chose RTC. The contract was for two phases. The first phase was of three months classroom training worth Frw23 million and the second phase was on-job training, supervision and monitoring worth Frw 41 million.The contract for three months classroom training ended in September 2005 and all payments received while the on-the-job training programme ended December 2006 with unpaid balance amounting to Frw14 million. “That is the cause of my nightmares in Rwanda,” Olouchi said.
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