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Rwanda MPs push for ‘moles’ in public offices, phone tapping

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Under Rwanda's law on interception of communications, phone tapping is considered lawful, and legislators say such radical measures are necessary to put a stop to corruption. PHOTO | FILE 

By Johnson Kanamugire and Ivan Mugisha

Posted  Sunday, March 6  2016 at  09:30

In Summary

  • Rwanda’s parliament has proposed that the government start listening in on civil servants’ private communications and have “moles” in public offices in order to detect and curb corruption.
  • According to the Members of Parliament, such radical measures are necessary because it is becoming increasingly difficult to fight corruption, especially in development projects.
  • In the East African Community, Uganda and Kenya have also attempted to legalise phone tapping.
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Rwanda’s parliament has proposed that the government start listening in on civil servants’ private communications and have “moles” in public offices in order to detect and curb corruption.

According to the Members of Parliament, such radical measures are necessary because it is becoming increasingly difficult to fight corruption, especially in development projects.

Under a law passed on August 22, 2013 on interception of communications, phone tapping is considered lawful if it is done in the interest of national security.

However, only government security agents are authorised to apply for a phone interception warrant from the national prosecutor. Now MPs want corruption investigators to have the same powers.

Two other countries in the East African Community have attempted to legalise phone tapping: Uganda was first in 2010, when President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill, 2010, which gives powers to security officials to listen in on private communications if they suspect the communication is in aid of criminal activity.

Kenya’s intelligence services have also previously requested parliament to amend the law and give them permission to tap private phone calls without obtaining a court warrant.

The 2014/15 Ombudsman Report shows that preliminary investigations failed to provide concrete evidence incriminating corrupt public servants linked to several multimillion-dollar projects that failed.

The report mentioned the Rwf22 billion ($28.7 million) geothermal energy projects in Nyabihu, Western Province and a dam project worth about Rwf1.2 billion ($15.6 million) for irrigation in Eastern Kirehe district as among the mismanaged projects in the country.

Ombudsman Aloysie Cyanzayire told MPs on the Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender last week that the cases had been referred to the police for further investigations as, “Our investigations revealed no corruption evidence.”

The MPs are concerned that this has left the whereabouts of the missing funds “up in the air,” signifying a growing scale of theft of public funds without “anyone being held accountable.”

Cyanzayire said the MPs’ recommendations would revolutionise the fight against corruption but did not confirm if they would be implemented.

The 2015 Corruption Perception Index ranked Rwanda as the fourth least corrupt country in Africa and least corrupt in East Africa, followed by Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi respectively.