President Paul Kagame has warned his new Cabinet against becoming complacent, saying Rwanda being landlocked faces unique challenges.
He was speaking in Parliament after presiding over the swearing-in ceremony of 20 ministers and 11 state ministers that make up his new government.
“We are a landlocked country. We face challenges that are different from our neighbouring countries. To solve these issues, we need to do things differently. We can't afford to get in the comfort zone,” President Kagame said.
With Rwanda importing nearly twice as much as it exports, it faces a daunting task of growing and diversifying its trade volumes.
In addition, the country pays heavily on transport costs importing and exporting goods through Kenya's Mombasa port and Tanzania's Dar es Salaam. Non-tariff barriers also limit trade significantly.
“We need to build capacity to tackle these difficult issues we face. We need to strengthen our resilience.”
The President also warned against ministries, departments and agencies working in isolation saying it affects efficiency and delivery of government services to the public.
“We can't afford (it),” he said, insisting that “this must change.”
Zeroing in on infrastructure, education, agriculture and justice dockets, whose ministers retained their posts, President Kagame demanded to see improvement in service delivery.
“We must deliver on our promises,” he told them.
The head of State warned against embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds saying it would not be tolerated. He called on Johnston Busingye, the Justice Minister, to prosecute those found culpable.
According to the 2015/16 Auditor-General’s report, persistent cases of mismanagement have led to loss of taxpayers’ billions of Rwandan francs and also undermined the government’s service delivery.
It further states that there are cases of wasteful expenditure, but diversion of public resources and unsupported transactions had reduced.
“It is our duty to fight this culture of everyone working as they please and mismanaging public funds. Nobody should embezzle public funds and get away with it,” he said.
Though President Kagame is credited for being intolerant to graft, global anti-corruption lobby Transparency International says only low-ranking officials pay the price while senior government officers most times go scot-free.
“I am not asking anyone to do the impossible. We need to work smart and efficiently. The opposite is very costly,” he said.