Rwanda Agriculture ministry bows to pressure and sells its idle land

Tuesday September 26 2017

The Auditor-General faulted the agriculture

The Auditor-General faulted the agriculture ministry for allowing assets such as tractors, to be idle for so long. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

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The Ministry of Agriculture has auctioned 50 tractors as it moves to get rid of idle assets that the Auditor-General described as a waste of public resources.

According to the irrigation and mechanisation department at the ministry, the sale of the tractors generated Rwf160 million ($190,000).

However, the figure is just a fraction of the Rwf1.9 billion ($2.2m) highlighted in the Auditor-General’s report as the total value of the idle assets in the ministry.

“So far, we have had four public auctions and some of these assets were procured in 2010 to work on irrigation projects,” said John Bosco Taremwa, the mechanisation specialist at the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB).

He said that most of the assets became redundant after the government, in 2013, started getting the private sector to offer the same services in preparation for eventual withdrawal from the projects.

“Only 40 tractors remain as the rest have been sold off along with their ploughs,” said Mr Taremwa.

Asset waste

For the past two years the Auditor-General has faulted the ministry for leaving assets worth nearly Rwf2 billion ($2.4m) to waste.

Some of these include motorcycles worth Rwf92,400,000 ($110,000) which were lying idle in Kabuye workshop for almost one year, potato harvesters, power tillers, rice trans-planters and a combine harvester worth Rwf50,990,901 ($60,000). These have been idle for almost seven years.

Others are equipment for milk collection centres at Mukarange, Ngarama, Rwimiyaga and Karushunga worth Rwf88,540,311 ($105,000), which were idle for two years.

A seeds processing plant worth Rwf226,863,382 ($269,000) was also reported not be operational at RAB due to the absence of spare parts.

“Auctioning off these assets is a process because we have to first write to the Ministry of Infrastructure who give us their value then we go into the auction. This delayed the planned auction and that’s when the Auditor-General classified them as idle assets,” said Mr Taremwa.

He said the tractors especially those purchased around 2010 cost around Rwf15 million ($17,800), which means those sold at the auction for a total Rwf160,000,000 ($190,000), cost Rwf3.2 million ($3,800) each.

Sources close to the sector have said that some of the tractors became idle because they couldn’t get people to operate and they were left parked until they developed mechanical problems.

When Rwanda Today asked the Minister of Agriculture Geraldine Mukeshimana what went wrong with the equipment to lead to such waste, she attributed it to a knowledge gap.

“If I go to Korea to buy a tractor and I bring back an automated tractor to be used in the hilly terrain of Gicumbi, if it breaks down maintenance is going to be a problem,” she said.

Ms Mukeshimana said this problem is not only in the agricultural sector but in other government institutions as well. She urged for the country’s limited resources to be used in the most efficient way possible.