Judiciary wants floor to explain case
KIGALI - More pressure is mounting on the Office of the Ombudsman with a call from some senior judicial officials to withdraw or validate facts contained in his 2008 annual report where the judiciary was ranked as second most corrupt institution.
The contested report riled the custodians of law after it ranked them second after Traffic Police in being prone to bribes.
The new development unfolds following a revelation by government Tsar that the report was conducted by specialists through a survey and was based on people’s perceptions of the institutions cited.
“This is a major national issue, way beyond the Judiciary…the Ombudsman should name those "specialists" and tell the public those "people" who responded and show what method was used,” said Johnston Busingye, the President of the High Court.
Defending his institution, Busingye, who is also a Principle Judge at the East African Court of Justice, said that any survey conducted anytime but ‘as long as it is scientific’ would find corruption levels in the judiciary ‘very close to zero.’
“Only these will determine whether or not the report is accurate or helpful. Short of that, let him withdraw it or let Parliament open debate on whether to accept it then someone will make our argument on the floor of the House,” he said.
He said that a more scientific method would have involved speaking to people who in one way or another are involved in the judicial processes.
“They should have for example taken a sample of litigants, the bar association, judges, court brokers, and others to come up with a clear picture rather than just picking people from the streets,” said Busingye.
He wondered whether the rules governing parliament would allow open debate on the report to revisit some of its stinging clauses.
On his part, Martin Ngoga, the Prosecutor General took to task Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara for blaming the media, which the latter accused of having blown the report out of proportion.
“The issue is more fundamental than just blaming it on the media…it is about the legacy of our institutions, a lot has been achieved in the last five years since we embarked on the reforms in the judiciary,” said Ngoga.
The 75-page report was presented last week to a joint parliamentary session and according to the parliamentary communication department, it is up for review, separately by concerned commissions in both chambers.
When contacted, the Chairperson of the Population Petitions Commission in the Lower Chamber, François Byabarumwanzi said that as a committee, they have not yet sat to discuss the content of the report.
“Of course during our study of the report, we make consultations and we shall definitely get to hear their side during our deliberations---in this case we shall invite the minister (of justice),” said Byabarumwanzi.
“They should rest assured that their concerns will be addressed during the committee session…up to now, this is just a report from the Ombudsman, parliament has not yet approved it,” said Byabarumwanzi, a first term lawmaker.
All not rosy in Judiciary
In a related development, Bernadette Kanzayire, a long serving lawmaker said that the judiciary should not go on the offensive over allegations raised in the Rutaremara report.
“We have heard both the Chief Justice and the Prosecutor General coming out to indicate cases of corruption in their institutions. To me, it did not come as a surprise,” said Kanzayire who heads the parliamentary committee on Political Affairs.
She specifically mentioned last year’s National Dialogue Summit where the two officials outlined strategies of how they will fight the vice from the institutions they head.
“If things have been put right, fine but this is a 2008 report,” said Kanzayire, whose committee was previously charged with making follow-up on the Ombudsman’s report.
Busingye also agrees that there are some cases of corruption.
“We don’t manage an army of saints. But our judicial staff are sufficiently mobilised against corruption and labelling them corrupt in any significant percentage is incorrect,” he said.
The report, which was tabled before the two chambers last Wednesday, is expected to be approved separately by both Houses after getting feedback from the committees which are also expected to make recommendations.
Efforts to talk to Rutaremara were futile as he could not pick his phone when contacted.