Legislators raise concern over discrepancies in FARG reports

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Political Affairs has expressed concern over contradictory figures from the Ministry of Local Government and the Office of the Ombudsman on the expenditures of the Fund for Genocide Survivors (FARG).

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Political Affairs has expressed concern over contradictory figures from the Ministry of Local Government and the Office of the Ombudsman on the expenditures of the Fund for Genocide Survivors (FARG).

The MPs were on Friday meeting the Minister of State in charge of Social Affairs in the Ministry of Local Government, Dr. Alivera Mukabaramba, over money not accounted for as highlighted in the 2012/13 Ombudsman’s report.

The report presented to Parliament last year indicates that millions of funds allocated to FARG were embezzled but Local Government officials told MPs that the Ombudsman’s figures were inaccurate.

Mukabaramba told MPs that she acknowledges that there are issues but disputed with the figures in the Ombudsman’s report.

She further requested the committee to delay their recommendations until the Ombudsman figures have been revisted.

Mukabaramba claimed that the Ombudsman’s Office did not share their findings with the ministry which made it impossible to consolidate figures.

This prompted the committee chairperson, Alfred Rwaka, to question why the official agreed that FARG had some financial mismanagement issues yet doubted the figures in the Ombudsman’s report.

“It is only figures that can tell us how big the problem is. The report provides for that and if you are doubting what is in the report, then there is a problem,” Rwaka said.

“It is mandatory that the Ombudsman shares findings with the agency they have probed. I wonder why the Ombudsman did all this work and never advised the Ministry or FARG,” Rwaka added.

However, when The New Times contacted Jean Pierre Nkurunziza, the spokesperson of the Office of the Ombudsman, he said there was no need to share their findings with the ministry since it was an investigation commissioned by the Prime Minister. 

“We only share the findings when it’s an operation situation finding but when it is an investigation, we report directly to the one who ordered for the investigation. It is upon the one who commissioned the investigation to share the findings or not,” Nkurunziza said.

He added that over the weekend, officials from the Ministry of Local Government met with the Office of the Ombudsman personnel to cross-check the figures. 

“We proved to them that our figures were right and even showed them the source of our information which is Ibuka (Genocide survivors umbrella), local officials and officials charged with welfare at the district and sector levels,” he said. 

He, however, pointed out that in case of a constituent mismatch, Parliament has a right to instruct both the Office of the Ombudsman and the Local Government ministry to conduct a joint investigation into the matter.

MP Rwaka later told The New Times that the alternative way of dealing with such a mismatch is through conducting an independent parliamentary probe into the matter. 

“We will come up with recommendations and present them to the plenary. It will be upon members to decide on the way forward which may include establishing an ad hoc committee to carry out an investigation or any other decisions,” Rwaka said.

MPs looked shocked by the minister’s claims that the figures were false and doubted her defence.

MP Ignacienne Nyirarukundo said defending the ministry on grounds that the Ombudsman did not share findings doesn’t address the problem.

“Of course the Ombudsman could not publish a report full of failing projects, investments and initiatives when there is something good to report about,” Nyirarukundo said.

Deputy vice-chairperson of the political committee Yvonne Uwayisenga said if the ministry doesn’t agree with the figures in the report then the committee had its hands tied.

“We are in a dilemma of who to believe and who not to believe,” she said.

Mukabaramba had told MPs that since its inception, FARG has spent about Rwf21.9 billion on shelter which is higher than the Rwf19.3 billion indicated in the Ombudsman report.

In her defence, Mukabaramba said the money government had spent on housing since 1998 totals to Rwf21.9 billion and owned up for gross abuse of funds meant for survivors.

“We are constructing about 4,000 houses for survivors and soon the problem of accommodation will be addressed once and for all,” she said.

The Ombudsman’s report indicated that Rwf130 million was embezzled while Rwf86 million was diverted to unjustified expenditure not linked to FARG.

 The Executive Secretary of FARG, Theophile Ruberangeyo, said he wasn’t aware of the funds in question.

“The only unaccounted funds I know of is Rwf92 million which is yet to be accounted for by Rubavu District,” he said.

The report also noted that there were 5,709 houses that were constructed but are unfinished, while 142 houses were given to people who were not meant to be beneficiaries. The same report indicates that 930 were later sold by the beneficiaries.

It adds that about Rwf294 million was spent on projects that FARG can neither justify nor identify.

The Ombudsman found out that FARG owes about Rwf42 million to different secondary schools in 11 districts despite the fact that those school have for long demanded for payment.

This is not the first time cases of mismanagement of FARG funds are coming up in Parliament. In 2010, the Senate initiated a study into the Fund’s management which unearthed gross abuse. FARG has for long featured in the Auditor General’s reports as one of the institutions that have unclean audit reports.