February 14, 2019

As Gov’t Seek to End Rent Dependence, There are No Records for Buildings it Owns

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Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), the institution charged with managing government buildings doesn’t have records of the number of buildings owned by the government, information reaching The Chronicles indicates.

Speaking to The Chronicles, Mr. Eric Serubibi, the Director-General said that the agency has yet to conduct an audit of all its assets. “I do not have the figures right now,” he responded to our inquiries.

When asked whether they were available and maybe he needed time to find them, he responded: “…the figures are not available now”.

While RHA doesn’t know all the buildings it’s supposed to manage on behalf of government, space for offices has been a longstanding challenges for the government and it spends billions each year on rent.

In May 2012, the then infrastructure minister Albert Nsengiyumva announced that government would acquire sufficient offices for all the government’s departments to cut back expenditure on rent.

At the time, government was spending Rwf4bn on renting offices for its agencies and ministries annually. Nsengiyumva said government needed 18,000 square meters of space for offices and 50,000 square meters for civil servant residences.

The existing space was much less than needed. Many of the offices were old and falling apart such as district, provincial offices and ministry headquarters.

As part of the solution, Nsengiyumva said government had decided to purchase some of the commercial flats that were being constructed by the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB).

Local administrative units quickly rushed to solve their space problems by putting up magnificent office blocks. As a result, right from the cell level, up to districts – there seems to be competition as to who has the most gleaming office.

International partners have also come on board. China offered to build the ministry of foreign affairs, which currently also houses other agencies.

In 2016, China broke ground on construction of $37 million 5-storey complex to serve as the office for the Prime Minister. Works are at an advanced stages today, and several ministries will be housed there.

The new complex to house the office of the Prime Minister and other ministries being built by the Chinese in Kimihurura, a suburb of Kigali

As government acquires new office blocks, it is also requiring private businesses to follow suit. The fast urbanisation has brought huge commercial complexes built by private businesspeople.

In Kigali city for example, it is not allowed to rent office space in residential houses – a directive meant to increase tenancy for the many commercial buildings that dot Kigali’s skylines and its surrounding.

But as The Chronicles inclusively reports, there is no known record of how many buildings the government owns. Such buildings range from those that health facilities and schools, to departmental offices and warehouses. They are spread across the country.   

The Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), which was established in November 2010 is the custodian of all government buildings.

The agency is responsible for the management of all such assets and plans for buildings owned by the Central Government while districts handle asset management plans for district assets.

RHA also handles all renovations on all government buildings and each government department operating in a particular government building is supposed to monitor its condition.

The cost estimate for maintenance for the next financial year report are completed annually by the resident agency and submitted to the RHA by 30 September of each year. The repair estimates show estimated cost of both minor maintenance and major rehabilitation.

In 2015, the office of the Auditor General (OAG) carried out a performance audit at RHA to assess whether the agency had put in place appropriate systems to facilitate registration, maintenance and disposal of government buildings. The AG’s report shows that it is the same databases he asks for without finding an answer whenever the RHA is audited.

The AG’s assessment reads: “The audit has found that RHA had no maintenance planning for government buildings, Absence of a reporting framework between RHA and public institutions, Absence of title deeds for government buildings, Lack of monitoring to facilitate maintenance of government buildings and office furniture, Lack of regular maintenance of office furniture, Lack of preventive and timely maintenance of government buildings, Lack of insurance policy and plan for government buildings and office furniture, Lack of a handover report for National Stock transferred from MININFRA to RHA and that Government assets sold without appraisal by asset disposal valuation committee…”

Among the assets that RHA manages do not include “classified entities”, according to policy guiding its operations.

Questions about the usage of government buildings took a bizarre twist in parliament in June last year.

MPs on the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) were shocked to learn that the Rwanda Education Board (REB) was paying Rwf16m monthly rent for a building to keep laptop computers yet those gadgets should have been distributed to schools.

To make the situation worse, the rent rate was way beyond the market price. REB was paying $42 per square meter – way above the $25 per square meter on the market.

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