EDITORIAL: Prosecution has work cut out in corruption war

Tuesday August 4 2020

Court

The Rwanda Supreme Court. New tricks make it extremely difficult to investigate and prove cases of corruption beyond reasonable doubt as required by law. PHOTO | FILE  

RWANDA TODAY
By RWANDA TODAY
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Over the last few months, several senior government officials have been linked to corruption undermining the integrity of public service.

While it is not clear what sparked off the reinvigorated fight against the big fish, most ordinary Rwandans have welcomed the move as they bear the brunt of corruption.

For years, some ordinary Rwandans did not stand a chance to win a lucrative public tender and not for failure to meet the technical requirements, but partly because they are not well connected or did not have direct links to influential politicians.

And since ‘big’ corruption is difficult to prove most people who lose public tenders simply count their losses and remain silent because they do not have evidence to prove that the tendering process was fraudulent and unfair.

Over the years, corruption has become sophisticated as the government intensifies the fight. For instance, the practice of money changing hands no longer takes place because those involved are aware the source of funds can be traced especially when the transaction is electronic.

Instead, they resorted to cash transactions that make it difficult to prove who paid what.
Now, the level of sophistication has increased to a level where bribes are in the form of buying construction materials and using acquaintances to purchase a property.

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Others divert the funds to family and friends abroad to purchase properties or take care of their families abroad.

The list of new tricks is infinite.

This makes it extremely difficult to investigate and prove cases of corruption beyond reasonable doubt as required by law. It is no surprise that in most cases after long court battles, suspects may not be successfully convicted.

It is reassuring that prosecutors appear to have discovered some of these tricks. This week Prosecutor General said their scope of investigation is expanding to include networks of suspects.

And beyond freezing assets as soon as someone is flagged as a suspect, anyone who helps them, will be prosecuted.

This might be the turning point as many have gotten away with public funds simply because they were not directed linked to the case.

As Rwanda continues to register significant economic gains, cases of corruption will inevitably rise and become more sophisticated. This calls for more vigilance and due-diligence particularly before officials are appointed to influential positions.

It is relatively easy to tell someone’s integrity from small things. Several measures are needed to minimise cases of corruption including reducing bureaucratic tendencies, which usually motivate people to pay bribes to skip the processes.

But perhaps more important, the few cases of ‘big fish’ who may be successfully convicted must face the full force of the law.

Given that corruption cuts across all sectors and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable but benefits the rich, the government must remain firm in the fight against corruption.

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