A sizeable number of government employees have failed to declare their wealth to the office of Ombudsman, The New Times has learnt.
Leaders are required by law to submit their annual declaration of income, assets and liabilities for verification by June 30. Any leader who fails to declare his/her wealth without any reasonable cause breaches the law and the penalty is huge.
“They cannot be dismissed from office but they can be suspended without pay,” a source from the office of Ombudsman said. The highest punishment, according to the source is a six-month suspension without pay.
The New Times has learnt that six months after the deadline, many government employees have not complied. Our sources revealed the office of Ombudsman had already contacted various institutions to discipline their unruly employees.
Jeanne Mwiseneza, the director of the Wealth Declarations Department confirmed the development last Thursday but declined to divulge the names and the total number of those who reportedly defied the law.
“What I can tell you is that we have a sizeable number of government employees who failed to declare their wealth. I cannot release the names,” Mwisaneza said in a telephone interview.
Asked why leaders who fail to declare their wealth should not be exposed by his office, the Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara said: “The law does not allow us to name people. We have to abide by the law”.
He added that the Ombudsman only releases the names of people after the court has proved beyond reasonable doubt that they committed a crime.
Rutaremara confirmed that his office had written to various government institutions, demanding that punitive action be taken against those who failed to declare their wealth.
“You cannot just sack somebody before warning them,” Rutaremara explained when asked why such leaders should not be sacked.
“We have written to most of ministries expressing our concern,” Rutaremara further revealed. He said another law, the Leadership Code, will soon be operational.
“The Leadership Code has already been approved by parliament. We hope it will also help us.”
The Leadership Code will require leaders to clarify and explain how they acquired their assets and incurred their liabilities. According to Rutaremara, the law that requires leaders to declare their wealth became operational in 2004.
The idea was to strengthen the fight against graft through increased accountability and transparency by top leaders in government.
Written declarations are supposed to be submitted on June, 30 every year as a strategy to fight corruption. Other wealth indicators considered are land, cars, houses and cash.
Those supposed to declare wealth include ministers, judges, MPs, police, army and prisons officers, heads of departments, local governments and district employees.
Penalties for non-compliance include suspension and loss or forfeiture of assets among others.
During the National Dialogue Conference that was held last year, President Paul Kagame called for the Ombudsman’s Office to be given more powers to enable it execute its work.