Over 5,000 out of 9,647 biogas plants constructed across the country since 2007 have become white elephants due to poor workmanship and recruitment of staff with no required technical capacity to implement the project, Rwanda Today has learnt.
Initiated by the government, partly to preserve the environment by reducing dependency on charcoal and firewood as a source of cooking fuel, the failure of several biogas plants is threatening progress.
It also means women and children from vulnerable households will continue to spend more time in search of firewood for cooking. According to the Rwanda Household Survey 2019/2020 report, 77.7 percent of households rely on firewood as cooking solutions, a number that the country had targeted to reduce to 42 per cent by 2024, to adopt the use of gas and biogas which is as low as 4.2 per cent in the same report.
The issue was recently brought the attention of parliament in a session with the Ministry of Infrastructure. Minister for infrastructure Ernest Nsabimana said the programme had suffered issues of poor design and lack of skills.
“After decentralization of the programme to district level, it was proven that responsible technicians were obviously not skilled enough to handle technical issues, especially maintenance of the Biogas plants,” Minister Nsabimana told parliament on March 9.
“Even a minor malfunction couldn’t be fixed due to the lack of skilled technicians. This has over risen demands in technical support which led to disheartening the facilities’ end users,” he added.
Through the programme had no sustainability plan, the government had been injecting a subsidy of Rwf300,000 per household, while individual balance per household was Rwf100,000 sourced through Saving and Credit Co-operatives as loans.
In November 2019, on a three month deadline, Rwanda’s parliament assigned the then prime minister to overhaul the “poorly planned and inspected” programme, to ensure it meets the target for which it was established, but nothing has been done.
Parliament has tasked the Ministry of Infrastructure to identify and hold to account those responsible for the failure of the projects.
“Involved people should be identified and held accountable. If it's a lack of competences, the recruiter should be held accountable. You cannot drive without a driving license, how can you be hired to design this without competence and license to do so! We shouldn’t be hearing things like bad designs, poor plans! Those responsible should be identified,” Ruku-Rwabyoma John, Member of the Parliament.
Moreover, different Auditor General reports show the programme’s funds that have been diverted, totaling over Rwf72 billion. Though the government has so far stopped allocating budget to it.