May 31, 2019

Ombudsman Struggles To Explain Why Corruption Fight Not Reaching “Big Fish”

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Ombudsman Anastase Murekezi is also a former Primer Minister and had been in cabinet for many years

A new government report released today shows 108 people were convicted last year over corruption, however, nearly all of them are low level officials and ordinary Rwandans with no decision-making authority.

When put to task at a press conference in Kigali on Friday, Ombudsman Anastase Murekezi struggled to respond to queries why the country’s anti-corruption fight was targeting what have been described as “small fish”.

Of the 108 people found guilty between August 2018 and January 2019 – a period of 5 months, 90 are man while only 18 were women, according to the report.

The list of categories of people convicted shows that 15 of them are ordinary farmers and 11 are drivers. There is also a student and security guard.

For example, a farmer in Musanze district was jailed for 3yrs for offering bribe of Rwf 3,000 ($3.3). He was fined Rwf 6,000 – double the bribe he gave.

The list has no single government official at the level of head of a unit in an agency.

More than 80% of those convicted are either private individuals or low-level employees of small private companies. But there are also top managers of small private private companies.

The Ombudsman’s update on the fight against corruption comes after Auditor General’s report for 2017-18 showed that over Rwf5.6 billion ($6.1m) was either wasted or swindled.

The AG report released April 30, said all these expenditures were either unsupported, unauthorised, and funds diverted or fraudulently utilised.

Every year, similar huge amounts of taxpayers money is lost – leaving the public wondering whether corruption was not to blame.

“Corruption is at all levels in Rwanda,” admitted Ombudsman Murekezi, citing the Transparency International Rwanda bribery INDEX of 2O18 which showed that 33% of corruption cases involve procurement officials and private companies bidding for government contracts.

He added: “Those 33% are not farmers, they are high profile people and powerful business-people who are offering bribes to high-level government officials.”

“We can’t say there is anywhere with no corruption….corrupt acts are committed by many people of different levels. What we are presenting here (today) are cases that went up to courts and attracted convictions. The list is prepared by the Supreme Court.”

“It does not mean that corruption cases should be of only powerful officials. NO! The courts try anyone in society suspected of engaging in corrupt acts.”

Murekezi said that as indication that the corruption fight was not for lower level people taking bribes of Rwf 5,000-15,000, large amounts of money had been recovered from people who stole a lot of money.

The Ombudsman cited the case of an official from electricity provider Rwanda Energy Group (REG) who embezzled Rwf 90m ($100,000).

The Ombudsman’s update also shows that all those convicted were fined a total of Rwf 1.1billion and jailed for between one-fifteen years.


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