Ombudsman report exposes graft in social services projects

Published by The East African
On 10 November 2016 saa 07:15
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Rwanda’s social protection programmes have come under increased scrutiny over efficiency after funds were lost to graft, fraud or got diverted at the expense of the needy.

The 2015/16 Ombudsman report presented before parliament last week revealed that a huge chunk of the money and other help designed for the poor ended up in the pockets of ineligible individuals or ghost beneficiaries, while others were diverted by local officials.

This not only affected Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), a poverty eradication scheme initiated in 2007 to provide support to the vulnerable and poor, but also the One cow per family programme (Girinka).

The Ombudsman found the two programmes together with the Agriculture Ministry run fertiliser import and distribution system marred by graft and high level theft across districts of namely Rubavu, Nyarugenge, Karongi,Rusizi, Nyagatare, Ngorerero, Muhanga, Gatsibo and Gicumbi.

In Rubavu District alone over Rwf63.2 million meant for poor beneficiaries as VUP direct support and micro loans for vulnerable families ended up in the wrong hands.“In Nyakiliba Sector, Rwf19,939,848 was given to private individuals who do not qualify as beneficiaries while Rwf14,660,000 was loaned to ghost vulnerable groups and in Rubavu Sector Rwf13,179,000 lost ,” said Aloysie Cyanzayire, chief Ombudsman.VUP funds worth Rwf24.7million in Gatsibo, Ngororero Rwf8.3 million and Rusizi Rwf8.8million also suffered the same fate.

Mr Cyanzayire added that money for direct support was mostly diverted by local authorities and used in activities aimed at meeting annual performance contracts’ (Imihigo) targets.

Missing funds

Latest “Ubudehe” categorisation figures indicate that over 376,192 Rwandan households live in extreme poverty without the ability to own or rent a house and often struggle to get food and basic needs.Graft also derailed the functioning of the one cow per family programme (Girinka) with Ombudsman report pointing to cases where local officials manipulated lists of beneficiaries.

Graft was also reported in the fertiliser import and distribution programme known as “Nkunganire” spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture.Analysis shows that a huge amount of the fertilser never reached the farmers.Lawmakers raised concerns with regard to action taken and the recovery of the funds involved in the ballooning graft and embezzlement cases in crucial pro-poor and developmental programmes.

“Why don’t we have, of all the billions reported missing funds in VUP and Girinka over the past 10 years, those implicated arraigned in court to at least recover some of this money,” asked MP Theobald Mporayi.The ombudsman indicated that most of cases in the crimes committed aren’t in its powers to prosecute and have as a result been referred to concerned institutions.“We have shared our findings with the Police to carry out a thorough investigation nationwide and prosecute the perpetrators and ensure the funds are recovered,” Mr Cyanzayire told Parliament.

Meanwhile, the findings will likely take centre stage in the MP’s further scrutiny at the committee level. According to the report, the Ombudsman received and investigated 89 corruption-related cases involving 30 individuals.

Of the cases, 43 were either found with no evidence to implicate those involved, 17 referred to the Police and national prosecution authority, while 29 are still pending.

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The Ombudsman report points to cases where local officials manipulated lists of beneficiaries or gave cows not meeting required criteria.