BY JAMES MUNYANEZA AND GODWIN AGABA
It is now the duty of prosecutors to determine whether Minister Protais Mitali and others have cases to answer before the courts of law.
Police forwarded the file containing charges against the Commerce and Industry minister and some of his junior officers to the Office of the Prosecutor General on July 31, and the latter said that it has already interrogated some of the accused officials.
The information that the file is now in the hands of prosecutors was confirmed yesterday by the director of the Criminal Investigation Department Cost Habyara and the Prosecutor General (PG) Martin Ngoga.
“It is now a week since we sent the file to them,” Habyara said while Ngoga, who was initially hesitant to comment on the matter, said, “it’s true we received the file and are doing some investigations.”
Ngoga however could not give details saying he was on leave, and refered The New Times to his deputy, Alphonse Hitiyaremye.
When contacted, Hitiyaremye also confirmed that the office was following up the issue, but added that interrogations were being conducted by the Nyarugenge Prosecution.
“A number of officials have been interrogated and more questioning will be done,” he said.
He disclosed that the charges are related to the procurement and management of the government’s fuel reserves at Gatsata and Rwabuye in Gasabo in Kigali and Huye in the Southern Province, respectively.
Other officials implicated in the alleged irregularities are the ministry’s Secretary General Justin Nsengiyumva, the director of planning Felicien Murenzi and Robert Opirah, who is charged with petroleum transactions.
Murenzi is also the chairman of the ministry’s internal tender committee.
“There is suspicion that they (the officials under probe) could have participated in the mismanagement or misappropriation of the government’s fuel. Investigations indicate that there is money that was spent but cannot be accounted for,” the deputy PG said.
Asked how much money is involved, Hitiyaremye said: “I don’t have the file with me now but what I know it is a lot since it concerns procurement of fuel to be used by the government agencies.”
There are reports that the officials could also have circumvented normal tendering procedures,
He said that Nyarugenge prosecutors yesterday quizzed Opirah, to be followed by Murenzi today.
By press time, he said he had not received a report of Opirah’s interrogation from Nyarugenge District Prosecution, and so could not be in position to discuss more details.
He also declined to divulge further into the charges contained in the CID report.
Habyara was again equally reluctant to discuss the findings of police.
Mitali said in an interview on Monday that he was yet to see the police report, and refused to discuss charges he is accused of. He however said he was an innocent man. “I am not guilty at all. I have a clean conscious on that.”
Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that State Minister for Industry and Investment Promotion, Vincent Karega, was never interrogated in connection with the alleged corruption case, contrary to yesterday’s reports.
Both Habyara and Hitiyaremye confirmed Karega was never summoned or subjected to any probe in relation to the case.
“Until now he has not been probed or implicated (in the case),” said Hitiyaremye.
The state minister himself yesterday called The New Times several times, denying any links to the investigations.
“Since the time I was born, I have never been investigated or charged in relation to corruption allegations,” said the state minister.
Our reporter had tried to talk to him on Monday (before the first story) but the state minister told him he was unable to talk since he was busy at the time.
“I did not hear well that question because there was noise and preferred to give him the next day’s appointment, without knowing that it was for a story to be published today (yesterday),” Karega said.
Asked how Karega could not have been implicated in the case, in which Minister Mitali, Secretary General Nsengiyumva and some other junior officials, all have been implicated, Habyara said: “He is in charge of different portfolios.”
And asked why a full Cabinet minister could be investigated over tender-related issues, Hitiyaremye said: “Those are very big tenders and as a minister he is the one that signs at last. He has the final say, and so that itself is enough to have him asked some questions.” He said the cases involved are for this year.
When contacted yesterday, Nsengiyumva said he was too busy to make a comment on the investigations. He promised to comment today.
On his part, Murenzi said he was only ‘asked informally’ by someone about the case but insisted he does not deal with issues to do with petroleum procurement. He said petroleum issues are handled by the ministry’s trade department.
He said that the internal tender committee does not handle tenders valued at over Frw50 million. A source in the ministry also said that the minister signs all big tenders.
According to several reports from the Auditor General’s office, some government officials tend to circumvent proper tendering procedures, through such cases as creating ‘ghost’ companies and splitting one tender into many to avoid the obligation of forwarding them to the National Tender Board (NTB). Several senior government officials have previously been arrested and charged with among others, breaching tendering procedures and misappropriation and mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.
Ministers, Mitali under probe, Nsengiyumva, interrogated, and Karega who was never summoned