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Officials exploit gaps to evade full declaration of their wealth

Sunday July 18 2021
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Members of Parliament in the lower chamber. According to the 2019/20 report from the Ombudsman, 12 government officials failed to explain the source of their wealth, up from 10 people that were recorded in the previous year. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA.

By LEONCE MUVUNYI

High ranking public officials are still able to illegally accumulate wealth thanks to loopholes in the asset declaration process, Rwanda Today has learnt.

In fact, some even fail to meet the June 30 deadline set for them to declare their wealth. According to the 2019/20 report from the Ombudsman, 12 government officials failed to explain the source of their wealth, up from 10 people that were recorded in the previous year.

While the 2020/21 report is yet to be released, the Ombudsman told local media that 38 dossiers have been filed with the prosecution between July 2020 and June 2021, in relation to the assets declaration and anti-corruption measures.

"Among those we saw was someone who earns Rwf200,000 but he had Rwf500 million. We wondered where she or he gets Rwf500 million from. If you analyse closely, you find out that they are managing it for someone else.

We are searching for those shepherds, and if you look after some of the illegally gained property you will be punished along with the owner,” Madeleine Nirere, the chief ombudsman said during a talk show on national television.

Twelve dossiers of people allegedly involved in stealing public resources or failing to explain the source of their prosperity had been submitted to the Rwanda Investigation bureau by May.

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Weak link

However, analysts point at the law guiding the declaration of assets as the weak link saying it is riddled with loopholes, including limited transparency as the declared assets are not made public, which are amenable to exploitation.

“It’s good to have this law that helps in accountability but the law has gaps as the declared assets remain unknown to the public; a gap which may limit its effectiveness,” Jean-Paul Ibambe, the programme co-ordinator at the Legal Aid Forum told Rwanda Today.

Senior government officials, including the Head of State, have to declare their assets not later than June 30 of every year; and when they leave their office, in a period not exceeding 15 days. “The law may be more efficient if the people in charge follow up and investigate whether the declared assets are truly what is in possession of the concerned individuals, because that would curtail this practice of people keeping their properties under someone else’s names, relatives or their children,” Ibambe added.

Rwanda Today has learnt that the law is currently being reviewed to curb the embezzlement of public resources.

According to the Auditor General report, out of over Rwf3, 220 billion audited in the last financial year, Rwf5.7 billion had been swindled or spent without supporting documents.

Ministry of Justice figures indicate that out of over Rwf10 billion that several people have illegally taken from the public coffers only Rwf4 billion had been recovered.

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