Irregularities in biogas project irk MPs

On 13 September 2021 at 05:40

Members of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have expressed lamentations over irregularities that have persistently stalled successful implementation of biogas project.

The project was initiated in 2006 with main objectives of the to substitute the use of firewood for cooking energy by biogas, hence protecting the environment and people’s life, improving sanitation in the kitchen, and reducing burden on women and children who are used to collect firewood for cooking in families.

It is also in line with the Government’s objective of reducing dependence on biomass as fuel through use of alternative energies.

The program saw the Government building biogas plants at more than 10,000 households countrywide.

In 2014/2015, the Government injected over Rwf1 billion to build more than 3000 biogas plants amidst persistent issues that impeded successful implementation of the project to reach its objectives.

The Auditor General’s report released in 2017/2018 pointed out a number of concerns over the biogas programme that may threaten its sustainability.

They included a high rate of non-operating plants whereby in the eleven districts it was implemented, 32 per cent were not operating, leaving beneficiaries with no option but to use firewood or charcoal as fuel.

At the time, PAC summoned the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) and Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) for enquiry on issues impeding progress of the project where it was resolved that the biogas programme had to be revised because the study was poorly conducted and monitored.

MININFRA and MINALOC would work together to revise the programme in all districts where it was being implemented even though few plants were operational due to recklessness of the team assigned to follow up the project as stated by the former Permanent Secretary in MINALOC, Assumpta Ingabire.

She explained that MININFRA handed over the management of the project to districts where MINFRA continued to assist in technical matters but poor monitoring persisted and impeded its objective.

Ingabire said that beneficiaries were not trained on proper use and maintenance of bio-gas plants to ensure sustainability.

The concern was raised again recently on Thursday 9th September 2021 as PAC analyzed recommendations from the 2019/2020 AG’s report on the issues of biogas project.

It was observed that biogas issues are persistent in all beneficiary districts incurring loss of injected funds yet MININFRA and MINALOC had pledged to fix the problems durably.

“The project took huge amounts. Last year, you agreed to make revised study to repair non-operating biogas plants and delegate technicians to provide assistance. We have been assuming that all reported issues were fixed,” said MP Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye.

“The Government expected huge benefits from Biogas project but you did nothing to fulfill the promises you made last time. We are extremely disappointed,” she added.

MP Mutesi also questioned the project wondering whether it is still relevant for the country.

“The project has been characterized by irregularities right from the beginning. These issues have been persistent for so long without improvement. Can we get assured that the project will end up yielding positive results?”

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure, Patricie Uwase told parliamentarians that the study was conducted and established that 8600 are not operational.

She explained that MININFRA is engaging with MINNINFRA to fix technical defects among other issues to turn biogas plants operational.

“We are optimistic that our biogas plants can function again because the completed study shows that most of them need to be repaired,” said Uwase.

The Statistical Year Book 2020 shows that only 4,2% of Rwandan households use biogas. The figures rose from 0,1% of the year 2010/2011.

Among others, 77,7% of Rwandan households use firewood, 17,5% use charcoal while 0,5% use crop residues as cooking fuel.

Biogas is also used by schools and almost all prisons in Rwanda.

The Statistical Year Book 2020 shows that only 4,2% of Rwandan households use biogas.