The Ministry of Sports and Culture has given in to pressure and released details of its expenditure to a journalist Fred Muvunyi who had threatened to take up the issue with the Ombudsman or even and the courts following the ministry’s refusal to release details of its expenditure.
In what is seen as a breakthrough for the media and the country’s new Access to Information Law, Minispoc published its expenditure details for the budget year running between 2012/13.
However, the tax payer’s money spent on different sporting disciplines compared with the dismal performance of the national teams is what has shocked many, particularly the funds spent on hiring international experts and coaches.
Mr Muvunyi has for the past three weeks been embroiled in a dispute with the Sports ministry which had allegedly refused to hand over the details of the monies spent on the national soccer team, saying it was “confidential” information.
However under the new law, Mr Muvunyi maintained that the money spent on sports is public information since it comes from taxpayers’ pockets and the release of such information did not pose any threat to state security.
The ministry however releases its expenditure details a few days after Mr Muvunyi published a story from “reliable sources” within the ministry, which showed that the government had spent Rwf657m ($1,012,000) on foreign coaches in a period of five years.
The report shows that Croatian Tucak Branko who coached Amavubi (the national soccer team) between 2008 and 2009 when he was fired, pocketed a monthly salary of $20,000 on top of enjoying a free house and official car.
It is also shows that the government paid him out $300,000 when he was relieved of his duties in 2009 after showing no improvement.
The confidential report also shows that Ghanaian coach Sellas Tetteh who coached Amavubi from February 2010 to September 2011 also earned $20,000 plus the same privileges while his replacement Milutin “Mico” Sredovic earned a monthly salary of $16,000.
Both men also received an unspecified amount of payouts when they were fired. When the story was published, it riled many and drew a lot of criticism from the public as local websites picked it and radio stations discussion forums hosted debates on it. Callers were quick to express their disappointment on how much the government is spending on non-performing national teams.
The budget shows that Rwf723 million ($1.11 million) was spent on salaries for experts during the financial year 2012/13.
An extra Rwf1.06 billion ($1.6 million) was spent on what it says is “development budget” but a bigger amount of it was spent on expert consultancy, including $664,000 spent on a group of expert engineers working on the Huye Stadium in the Southern Province. Only $240,963 was spent on construction itself.
The Sports director Emmanuel Bugingo told Rwanda Today that the ministry did not have intentions to sit on the information but the journalist was not patient enough for the ministry to put together what he had asked for.
“We wanted to release that information and we had talked to Mr Muvunyi and explained to him that we needed more time to put together what he asked for. Personally I told him I was out of office but if I got back, I would work on it.
“There was no intention of denying him this information,” Mr Bugingo said, but refused to comment on the money paid to the foreign national soccer team coaches, pointing out that the ministry does not know where he got the information from.
“I cannot comment on that. I can only comment on what we provided, not something we don’t know its source,” Mr Bugingo said.
Dr Christopher Kayumba, a lecturer in journalism at the National University of Rwanda said that Mr Muvunyi’s case is a landmark case that should set a precedent and also at the same time educate the public.
“Rights are not given, they are fought for. What Mr Muvunyi did was a great act. The ministry now knows that they are obliged to give out this information as long as it does not destabilise the nation. I think all journalists should follow suit.
“It is also a case for the public to learn from, perhaps even the ministry did not know that this law existed and now they know,” Dr Kayumba said, applauding Mr Muvunyi.