Top officials arrested as Rwanda moves to stop misuse of funds

Monday September 11 2017

The three top officials arrested as Rwandan

The three top officials arrested as Rwandan government moves to stop misuse of funds. PHOTOS FILE | NATION 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The latest wave of arrests of officials at government utility companies as well as at the University of Rwanda marks the newly-sworn-in government’s efforts to crack down on misuse of public funds, something that has plagued key parastatals.

Last week, the police arrested Emmanuel Kamanzi, the managing director of the Energy Development Corporation Ltd (EDCL), and James Sano, the chief executive officer of the Water and Sanitation Corporation (Wasac) over alleged illegal awarding of multi-million franc tenders and misuse of office.

Earlier, the police arrested the University of Rwanda’s deputy vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, Pudence Rubingisa, over awarding of unjustified favours in a contract that led to the loss of almost Rwf900 million ($1m).

These agencies, alongside another seven parastatals like the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) and Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), account for 60 per cent of the government’s annual expenditure but each has on several occasions been put on the spot for losing money through wasteful expenditure and fraudulent payments.

Despite auditors raising the alarm and calling for sanctions on implicated individuals to recover losses, it was not until President Paul Kagame put the new government to task that the officials were arrested.

“After these arrests, we are putting emphasis on financial accountability. We must find out if funds are being used according to the law without necessarily waiting for the Auditor-General’s reports,” said Infrastructure Minister James Musoni who has both the water and electricity ministries in his docket.

Enforcing strict regulations

Last week on Tuesday, Mr Musoni presided over the handover ceremony between the outgoing and the incoming State Minister for Transport.

He said the Ministry was enforcing strict regulations regarding the tendering and implementation of projects at all its agencies to root out corruption and fraud.

Last year’s Auditor-General’s report showed persistent financial malpractices affected implementation of water and power infrastructure projects, which are key to the country’s transformation agenda.

The arrests, though pegged on alleged malpractices in specific tenders, came amid widespread public complaints over poor water services both in Kigali and in the rural areas.

The pledge to plug the Kigali water gap by January did not meterialise due to the delayed upgrade of Nzove I, the plant expected to boost Kigali’s supply capacity at 145,000 cubic metres per day by July from 90,000 cubic metres.

Rwanda Today found out that a team of auditors was formed at the ministrial level and tasked with urgently conducting a financial audit of both the Rwanda Energy Group and Wasac.

This is expected to unearth more details that are likely to incriminate all those who were involved in the alleged malpractices.

This is going on even as the police carry out investigations to find out who else is involved in the case.

“Investigations are ongoing to ensure that anyone connected to the fraudulent acts faces justice. Public funds should be used appropriately while respecting the law,” said Police Spokesperson ACP Theos Badege.

Inheriting projects

The new Prime Minister Eduard Ngirente recently appointed Aime Muzora to head Wasac. Ms Muzora, who is the former director of Planning in the Ministry of Infrastructure, is inheriting a number of pending water projects and some that are on-going.

Once completed, these projects should end water shortages and pave the way for access to clean water for all residents, which is targeted for next year.

The public still find rain-water harvesting facilities too costly, forcing Wasac to bank on very few weather-vulnerable water treatment plants and pump stations to serve a growing population. There is also growing demand for water for agricultural and industrial use.

The city of Kigali alone requires about 110,000 cubic metres of water per day while Wasac’s supply capacity stands at 90,000 cubic metres. This exposes residents of suburbs like Gikondo, Kanombe, Remera, Kicukiro to water rationing.

Another challenge is that the government faces a huge funding gap for construction, rehabilitation and management of water supply infrastructure both in urban and rural areas.

President Kagame said he expects the ministries of infrastructure, education, agriculture and justice to perform better.