February 25, 2019

Rwanda Housing Authority’s Responsiveness Is Commendable

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As The Chronicles reported last week, February 22, the Rwanda Housing Authority released the number of government-owned buildings under its management and care as mandated by the law establishing it.

The release of this information followed The Chronicles’ attempts to find and report this information with no success due to non-responsiveness from the Authority leaders.

When first contacted in the second week of February for this important public information, the Authority’s Director-General Mr. Eric Serubibi, said: “I do not have the figures right now” and when further probed to verify whether the information was available but probably needed more time to find it, he confirmed the numbers weren’t available and couldn’t say when they would be available.

After our story of February 14, under the headline: As Gov’t Seek to End Rent Dependence, There are No Records for Buildings it Owns, Mr. Serubibi followed up with giving the information about the number of government houses under his care.

In total, he said the government has a total of 7,539 buildings.

What now remains is to verify the condition under which these houses are in and who occupies them─to certify whether, they are occupied by government agencies or legally authorized tenants and whether, indeed, even with these buildings, government still lacks office space.

Finding out this information is important since, for some time now the state has been spending billions in Rwanda Francs due to limited number of office space and is constructing new buildings to solve the problem. However, there is no record, in the public domain showing that, indeed, while the state has buildings, they aren’t enough to house all government ministries, agencies and authorities. Nor has there been an audit of how these buildings are managed.

That said however, Mr. Serubibi’s responsiveness─of following up and giving the information he holds in trust on behalf of the public is commendable and should be emulated by ALL public officials─but without hesitation or delay.

For to provide information to the public isn’t a favour as some may assume but a legal and policy duty for all public officials as stated in the access to information law of 2013 and Article 38 of the 2003 of the Constitution as amended todate.

As the Article states in part, “Freedom of press…of access to information are recognised and guaranteed by the State” and therefore any official that refuses to give information acts extra-constitutionally.

That also means any official who refuses to give information undermines not only government policy but also constitutional rule which is crucial for nurturing and advancing democratic rule.

Because it advances rule of law and helps to create informed citizenry which is necessary to consolidate accountable and responsive governance, we urge all public and private officials to always make information available whenever needed─unless such information compromises security, public order or individual privacy as provided for by law.

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