A total of 4,155 people have since 2018 been investigated over crimes related to corruption, the Secretary General of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), Col. Jeannot Ruhunga, has said.
He said this while participating in a panel conversation aimed at discussing what can be done to build on the gains that the government has made as part of the celebrations of the international anti-corruption day on Wednesday, December 9.
Breaking down the numbers, Ruhunga said that in 2018 his office investigated 1,131 individuals involved in 732 cases. The following year, 1,295 people involved in 1,088 cases were investigated while by November this year, 1,729 people linked to 963 case files were investigated.
He admitted that the sophistication of the crimes continue to make it a challenge, but emphasized that political will on the part of government has enabled them to detect some of the culprits, mainly through whistleblowers.
“We have more people reporting this vice but we are also on the hand heightening our pursuit of individual who continue to embezzle public funds, a crime that is now classified under corruption. For instance, of the numbers I have shared, 1,279 of were suspected of having been involved in that crime,” he said.
Change of mind-set
Ruhunga suggested the need for Rwandans to emulate other countries where fighting corruption is part of their culture and being involved in the vice is highly frowned upon by their communities.
“In some developed countries, being implicated in corruption viewed as the end of one’s life. Their citizens are not concerned about the prison sentences attached to it, they are more worried about being viewed as outcasts by their societies,” he said.
The Minister in the Office of the President, Judith Uwizeye told the attendants that according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Africa loses $88bn in funds that are embezzled to other countries.
She said that although these funds are meant for the development of Africans but unfortunately, they end up benefitting the citizens of the countries in which this money is kept.
Although there has been no research to ascertain how much money Rwanda loses to corruption, according to the Auditor General’s annual reports, funds continue to be lost in what we think may be directly connected to corruption.
“Although the government like many others pursues those who embezzle public funds, it is difficult to recoup what was lost. All efforts are being put into recovering 90 per cent of these funds by 2024,” she said.
‘Look at both sides involved’
The Chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda, Marie Immaculée Ingabire said that there is a need to look at the issues of corruption from both the one offering and the receiver.
She said that in her institution’s line of work, it has been discovered that the local population offers to pay bribes without solicitation from service providers.
“When we talk to traffic police officers for example, they say that they are many times offered bribes by drivers who are well aware that their papers or vehicles do not fulfil the requirements set by law. We should not assume that the culprits are only the service providers,” she said.
In July this year, the Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye said that the government is pursuing about Rwf11bn that it hopes to recoup from cases that it won in corruption and public funds mismanagement-related cases.
Busingye, who also doubles as the Attorney General, explained that since 2015, the government has been pursuing around 700 people to refund the money and so far, about Rwf4 billion has been recouped.
“There was a culture and mentality of Rwandans not to feel the need to pay when they owe the government. We decided that this cannot go on and compiled a list of all those that owe the government money, the oldest case we have is from 200,” he said.
Prosecution is key
Speaking to The New Times in a telephone interview recently, Biraro said that prosecuting those responsible for the losses would go a long way in fixing the issues.
“You have to have enforcement. If you have not implemented the Auditor General’s recommendations, what happens to you? There are rules and if you go against them, you should face the consequences. There is no way out of this other than prosecution. There is no shortcut,” he said.
Biraro said that leadership should come with accountability and those trusted with the task to disburse public funds should be stripped of these responsibilities and tasked to refund the monies they lost.