The recent discovery that funds meant to help genocide orphans ended in individual pockets is a testimony enough, to show that though progress has been made in fighting corruption, there is still a long way to go.
The main challenge lies ahead, and will require enormous political concern and resolve, if it is to be uprooted. Though the government is showing seriousness about addressing the issue of corruption, it has not managed to push hard in all directions.
For anti-corruption efforts to succeed, civil society, the media, Parliament, the judiciary and the private sector must be involved in a participatory way, with full voice and empowerment.
Innovative ways of involving the citizenry at the local level, working in unison to improve governance and control corruption, can be very effective.
It is not only money meant for orphans that is actually stolen. Other organisations should also be investigated. For example, is the money meant for widows safe? The answer if we are to go by public out cry, is no.
There are many allegations that leaders of associations like AVEGA that are meant to take care of genocide widows too, have used the money to enrich themselves.
Though this is subject to investigation, no one has bothered to. There are therefore several cases of corruption allegations, which need to be unearthed, if we are to end the bad practice.
In any case, it is very simple to tell whether one is corrupt and embezzling public funds or not. Ones monthly income, weighed against his or her general wealth, will definitely help to tell if one is clean or dirty—corrupt or not.
It is simple common sense to tell that a person who earns Rwf300.000 monthly, cannot manage to drive a car worth Rwf5 million, construct a house of Rwf30 million in one year and above or afford to live a luxurious life.
We welcomed the government’s directive to force all public leaders to declare their assets. This is because it is part of their accountability to the community.
Failure to do so must be a criminal offence. The government however, must not underrate other officials who in a way have access to public money while checking out the issue of corruption and the general embezzlement of people’s funds. These people actually do many nasty things by confusing the illiterate peasants with funny projects.
They too should be subjected to such declaration, so that they are constantly followed up.
Currently any person can become an entrepreneur in Rwanda. Therefore, there is nothing inherently bad or wrong for a public leader or his/her family members to get rich, provided that all property in question is obtained legally.
The properties of course would include commercial buildings, residential houses and big businesses, we do not mind so long as the funds used are acquired from bank loans or other lawful means.
There should therefore be a swift move to force all leaders and every person who ‘touches’ public money, to declare his or her wealth.
If you own five houses, explain where you got them properly, as compared to your genuine salary or monthly income. There shouldn’t be any short cut or tolerance, for we have to fight corruption at all levels by confiscating assets belonging to public leaders found to have acquired riches through corrupt means or embezzling people’s money.
The culture of “use your office to get rich as quickly as you can” must end forthwith. Most African countries and Rwanda in particular, have taken the declaration of wealth as a necessity, but whether such declarations are genuine or not, it’s debatable.
For instance, Mwayi Kibaki, the President of Kenya asked his cabinet to declare their wealth as one of his priorities was to fight corruption in that country from the time he got into office.
On 30th June 2006, the Rwandan Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara declared that more than ninety per cent public officials had declared their wealth.
Is the war against corruption and embezzlement of public funds justified? Yes. A country is more likely to grow rich if its citizens are provided with some important basics, such as a legal system that works to protect them from corrupt officials.
Otherwise, whether the battle against corruption and embezzlement is lost or won, I can only say that it is not yet over until it is over.