Tuesday, March 6, 2012

RWANDA: AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO EMBEZZLE PUBLIC FUNDS WITH IMPUNITY

By Boniface Twagirimana
FDU-INKINGI
Interim Vice President
Over 20 billion (20,000,000,000) Rwandan Francs (Frw) or 40 million US dollars (US$) have been embezzled from Rwanda national treasury.

One gets these numbers by putting together figures and spreadsheets that were recently made public in a report written by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a commission of the Rwandan legislative assembly, in charge of monitoring the utilization of public funds and assets.
The report which was presented to the legislative assembly on February 15, 2012 illustrates the bad stewardship of public funds and assets during the fiscal year 2009-2010.
This 59 page report gives an overwhelming account of embezzled public funds found in 104 institutions including ministries, projects and agencies among 315 institutions that were scheduled to be audited. That is only 33% of the total institutions that were scheduled to be audited.

It is quite obvious that this embezzled amount could have reached a prorated 60,000,000,000 FRW should all those institutions had been audited as planned.

This is an extraordinary fortune representing 3 times the budget appropriation to higher education for one year. 

That means that if public funds were managed conscientiously, the number of students attending college could increase at least three folds. 

The report clearly shows mismanagement of public funds and assets. At fault are many things but hereafter are some of government’s wrongdoings:

· Concealing bank accounts;
· Withdrawing money leaving no paper trail or simply without proper documentation;
· Squandering public funds;
· Illegally disbursing funds to employees
· Tendering markets without approval of the tendering commission or without proper documentation
· Real estate mismanagement
· Bank account mismanagement;
· Non-payment of debts owed to Rwanda Development Bank (BRD).

Embezzling and squandering public funds assets appear as follows:
· Paying for equipments that never made it to the storage;
· Paying more than the cost of the performed work;
· Buying expensive goods while cheap ones are available;
· Paying phantom salaries to employees no longer on the payroll;

In short, the amount of the embezzled money that was made public is as follows:
· 502,774,678 Frw withdrawn by different government services without proper documentation
· 3,264,726,868 Frw of unaccounted debts owed to government services;
· 2,348.2-2.529 Frw of debts government services owe to creditors that are unaccounted for in the books;
· 11,479,540,680 Frw of markets tendered bypassing the government market tendering commission or not meeting the market tendering requirements;
· 1,747,085,054 Frw simply embezzled;
· 1,054,529,243 Frw spent on frivolities.

In the above report, part of that money disappeared, another part of it was stolen, while another part of it went missing because tax laws were not properly enforced. Additionally, part of that money was spent on work that was never performed and the money that was overpaid without valid justification.

Among institutions and agencies that were found to embezzle public funds, there are on the top of the list:

· Ngororero District: 1,282,106,666 Frw
· ONATRACOM: 252,045,834 Frw
· Kayonza District: 99,058,435 Frw
· Common Development Fund (CDF): 28,207,750 Frw;
· Central Public Investment and External Finance Bureau: 22,367,000 Frw;
· Rubavu District: 21,133,680 Frw.

Some institutions squandered public funds when it was not necessary such as the fines they incurred because they did not reveal or did not pay back taxes of all kind, contributions to Social Security Fund (CSR), signing checks without sufficient funds, paying for work that was never done and court fees. They include the following institutions:

· Ministry of Education (Mineduc): 163,369,057 Frw;
· Rwanda National Examination Council: 156,670,770 Frw;
· Kicukiro District: 110,000,755 Frw;
· National Prosecution Body: 102,266,140 Frw;
· National Electoral Commission: 98,908,759 Frw;
· The City of Kigali: 84,997,334 Frw;
· Genocide Survivors Fund-FARG: 68,975,488 Frw

Another 248,200,000 Frw in excess were paid on markets, 22,367,000 Frw of stolen high tech equipments, 25,860,000 Frw spent on non-existent projects (CDF), 7,889,065 Frw stolen from the Sector’s account, 1,100,000 Frw stolen from the vegetable growing project, 986,000 Frw stolen from cooperative project account.

Among obstacles made public that make it hard to recover embezzled government funds there is the fact that: no presidential or ministerial decree has ever issued to establish how embezzled government funds should be recovered, the higher government finance inspection office has no authority to do real inspection on services, tyranny and despotism in market tendering, those who embezzle are simply transferred to other ministries or government agencies where they continue stealing with impunity. It has indeed come to our attention that there was a written report requesting a commission charged with tracking down properties without owners and government funds that were never accounted for by the government, so that they can be made public and acted upon. While other countries have dedicated agencies commissioned to recover debts, the current government of Rwanda continues to embezzle government funds with impunity.

Additionally, the report highlights wrongdoings in projects’ management: the above commission showed that there are problems in the conception of projects, their management, their monitoring and their promotion within the population mostly owing to the fact that the people who conceive these projects show clearly that the population will benefit from them but upon inception the government fails to thoroughly monitor these projects to make sure that they fulfill the assigned goals.

As mentioned above, this report is a small detail that distracts us from the bigger picture. The funds and assets that are embezzled and squandered are countless. One may wonder why the Ministries and government agencies that channel a lot of funds and most expensive equipments were not audited. They were not even on the list of institutions that were supposed to be audited. 
These include for instance, the Ministry of Defense and EWSA (Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority) mostly known as ELECTROGAZ.

The Rwandan Government has frequently claimed inside Rwanda and abroad to be corruption-free. Thus the Rwandan saying: “He who does not get into the King’s courtyard is told a lot of lies”.

Most of taxpayer’s money ends up in the pockets of Rwandan officials while that money is meant to improve the well being of Rwandan citizens. Instead of putting more effort in recovering the embezzled funds, the government increased taxes for this year 2012. In some areas, taxes increased at least 4 times so that the population is completely desperate. It seems like the population is paying the price for government’s budget deficit due to embezzlement and mismanagement of public funds.

The party FDU-INKINGI requests that all ministries and institutions which have not been mentioned in the above report to be audited as soon as possible because the very few institutions that were audited showed overwhelming embezzlement. It is indeed shameful if embezzlement of public funds has become common practice in Rwanda.

The party FDU-INKINGI requests that taxe laws be based on taxpayer’s income. Ignoring this fact amounts to oppressing and smashing low income people.

The party FDU-INKINGI also requests the government to outiline without delay the measures aimed at prosecuting, punishing and recovering embezzled public funds. We call upon all competent institutions to immediately prosecute the culprits of such embezzlement equally and fairly.

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