Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame Monday announced the replacement of Claver Gatete as Minister of Infrastructure, and sent him to New York as Ambassador designate and Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations.
He named Ernest Nsabimana, a former Kigali City deputy Mayor, as the new Minister of Infrastructure, elevating him from head of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA).
Gatete was one of the longest serving ministers, having been in charge of the Finance docket from 2013, before moving to head Ministry of Infrastructure in 2018. Prior to being appointed minister, Gatete was ambassador to the UK, and later head of Rwanda Central Bank.
He replaces ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza at the UN.
A statement released by the office of the Prime Minister indicates that President Kagame also appointed Patricia Uwase as Minister of State, a post she assumes after serving as the Permanent Secretary in the ministry.
The changes at the ministry, which is tasked with the mandate of spearheading the country’s infrastructure projects from power and water supply, urbanisation, housing and transport among others, come just months to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled in the week of June 20, 2022.
The new date for the Commonwealth meeting, initially slated for June 2020 in Kigali but postponed twice due to the global pandemic, was announced on Monday in a joint statement released by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
Kigali earmarked several road projects to be created, expanded or upgraded to help ease congestion, alongside urban beautification projects ahead of the summit, and future events in the country’s quest to sell itself as a meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions (MICE) destination.
While work on numerous project have begun, work on others slowed down particularly due to expropriations of properties to pave the way for implementation.
Besides, the Ministry of Infrastructure has come under pressure to fix inefficiencies at key State enterprises under its docket, including the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) and Rwanda Energy Group (REG) amid reports of mismanagement and malpractices that cost taxpayers money in the water and power utilities’ generation, distribution and sales.
The auditor general’s latest audit of REG and WASAC operations, for instance, points to cases of delayed or loss-making projects, as well as investments in others which did not generate value for money.
For instance, the audit findings show REG incurred huge expenses generating power under different power projects namely thermal, methane and hydropower investments, yet most operated below installed capacity despite paying private developers for generated electricity at full plant capacity under different power purchase agreements.
The Ministry of Infrastructure also came under scrutiny over failure to deliver on the affordable housing projects to fix the ever-expanding housing deficit for low and medium income households, especially in Kigali with an estimated 100,000 low income rural-urban migrants each year in search of better services and jobs.
The latest auditor general report indicated that visits to sites of projects initiated to supply at least 5,900 low cost homes in total found that works had either not taken off or stalled.
Government set aside a multi-million franc budget to pay for expropriation of people and offered to award contracts for development of basic infrastructure, as part of incentives being extended to the people.
Official statistics estimated annual low cost housing demand at 31, 279 dwelling units as at 2019, while only 1000 units are supplied on an annual basis.
Kigali City alone needs at least 70,000 new dwelling units by 2028, according to the Housing Market study done by the International Growth Centre, a London-based Think Tank in 2018.