Rwanda: Ministry of Trade and Industry mismanaged more than Rwf 167million.

Unfair recruitment, unjustified salaries and misuse of office power

By John Williams Ntwali

Details from the Office of the Auditor General show that the Ministry of Trade and Industry mismanaged more than Rwf 167million. Previous Auditor General Reports continue to show taxpayers monies are either mismanaged or embezzled by what AG terms as “big fish” who normally go unpunished.

During the recent swearing ceremony of the MPs, President Paul Kagame asked the lawmakers to work for the people first. In this light, he thanked the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), recommending its leading role in holding public leaders accountable and also recommends disciplining those found to have mismanaged or embezzled public funds.

“If you can only account for 25% of the resources you are responsible for, we will ask you about the other 75%. And we will find where you have hidden them and hold you accountable.” President Kagame said.

Nevertheless, the lives of some people who provide information to the PAC to hunt down people involved in embezzlement of the public funds are now in danger!

We came across some cases as a matter of evidence. On 08th June 2018, the PAC called this Ministry of trade and Industry to justify cited cases of expenditure without supporting documents as pointed out in the Auditor General reports of December 2017.

However, after this summons, some of MINICOM staff members were accused of being in closer collaboration with PAC and this continuous harassment led to unlawful dismissal of a staff from this Ministry based on the so-called accusations of being in collusion with PAC and the office of the Auditor General.

In December 2017, the Auditor General’s report revealed, on its page no 23, that former MINEACOM staff, working under its project department known as Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU), was deliberately given a triple of their ordinary salaries without approval from the competent authorities.

During the summon to the PAC of 08th June 2018, this Ministry was accused of having done so without prior authorization from the Ministry of Public Service and Labour and this amounted to misuse of public funds.

Parliamentarian and Member of PAC , Hon. Theodomir Niyonsenga said that, 6 staff who were working for “Enhanced integrated framework tier 2 (UNOPS funded project) which had the objective of building cross-border markets for Burera and Karongi, one staff was supposed to receive a net monthly salary of Rwf312,000 as per the SPIU salary scare approved by the cabinet.

However, the Ministry paid them Rwf 839,000 without any prior authorization from the competent authority and this resulted into a loss of Rwf 37 million as indicted by Auditor General.

Extract of the Auditor-General Report, page 23

The Auditor General also revealed that, in the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation project, (GLTFP/ World Bank Funded Project) the Ministry recruited two staff whose positions were not on the salary structure approved by the cabinet, thereby causing to the government a loss of Rwf18 million.

In the project named ‘E-waste management Project’ the Ministry made the same practice which caused a total loss of Rwf12 million.

On GLTF Project again, some of staff were provided mission fees without tangible justifications and no mission reports were provided to justify their mission and this led to a total loss of around Rwf1million.

Considering the above practices, the PAC, recommended to the Ministry to take legal actions to recover Rwf67 Million to the state treasury with immediate effect.

Concealment of information on the use of Rwf 102 Millions

The PAC also discussed the pending request from UNOPS to conduct special audit of EIF tier 1 project closed in June 2016 with closing balance of Rwf 102,000,000 (estimated to 130,000 USD) which the Ministry failed to justify to the donor how this remaining fund was utilized after the project closure.

The PAC instructed to the Ministry to immediately engage the auditor General office to conduct this audit and produce a detailed report to be submitted to the donor as per their request pending from November 2017.

Up to now, the Ministry is still reluctant to implement the above recommendation from the PAC with intention to conceal information related to the mismanagement of the above funds and this has created negative image between the donor and the Ministry and with the government of Rwanda in general.

Whistleblowers in trouble

Throughout our investigation, we managed to discover that all the above information were revealed by the Auditor General in closer collaboration with Mr. Martin Hagenimana, who was recently appointed to the position of SPIU Coordinator in MINICOM, and assigned by the former Permanent Secretary Mrs. Rosemary Mbabazi, a special task to fight corruption and misuse of public funds which had become a culture in projects under SPIU of MINICOM.

After discovering that the above staff has revealed some of information to both Auditor General and PAC, the new management of MINICOM started harassing him using all of their means.

The well-known example is the meeting called ‘senior management meeting’ held on June 11, 2018 (just three days after being summoned to the PAC). In this meeting, the management of MINICOM clearly expressed their disappointment with fact that Mr. Martin revealed sensitive information to the PAC which tarnished the image of the Ministry; they clearly requested to find all means to dismiss him from his duty without any excuse.

Eventually, he was harassed on September 7, 2018; later, he was dismissed without any legal basis just three months after the hearing of the PAC.

According to two staff from this Ministry (who requested not to disclose their names), the above dismissal was of no tangible reason and this is a big sign that this Ministry is becoming again a safe place for embezzlement of public funds, as long as anyone who tries to fight corruption will be automatically victimized by the leaders yet they were supposed to support and protect him.

What really happened?

Martin Hagenimana joined the Ministry in September 2010 and was promoted to the position of SPIU Coordinator in July 2017. After this promotion, he was given special assignment by the former Permanent Secretary Mrs. Rosemary Mbabazi, to fight against corruption and embezzlement in all projects under SPIU as it was a culture under the previous management.

In November 2017, a team of Auditors from the office of auditor General was sent to MINICOM to conduct an ordinary audit of all MINICOM projects under SPIU.

During their audit, the team was strongly supported by the new Coordinator Mr. Martin Hagenimana as per his special assignment mentioned above. He therefore facilitated them to access to all useful information.

After producing audit reports, MINICOM higher authorities started harassing the Coordinator, accusing him of revealing certain information that should have been kept secret for internal use!

This situation became worse after summon to the PAC held in June 2018 as explained above. Mr. Martin Hagenimana was then accused of having disclosed the professional secrecy and thus tarnished the image of MINICOM.

In August 2018, a team of auditors from the Auditor General’s office was sent again to MINICOM to conduct an audit of SPIU projects for the fiscal year 2017/2018.

According to some of MINICOM staff interviewed by the journalist, this new audit was a stimulus for the Management to dismiss the Coordinator, given that, even the previous audit queries have not yet been corrected, therefore, his presence during this second audit was considered as imminent threat to the management and to the Ministry in general. Secondly, the management of the Ministry has completely refused to conduct special audit for EIF tier 1 project as recommended by the PAC yet there is a hidden balance of Rwf102,000,000 which the Ministry failed to justify its use after the project closure of June 2016.

Therefore, on September 05, 2018, MINICOM Permanent Secretary Michel Sebera conducted abnormal performance evaluation and immediately announced to Mr. Martin Hagenimana that he has been evaluated and scored very lower marks which lead to immediate the dismissal.

Some of his colleagues informed our journalist that Mr. Martin Hagenimana was very surprised to be evaluated on performance contract he never signed or knowing its content. In additional, they were wondering how the audit of SPIU projects can be conducted without the presence of SPIU Coordinator who is in better position to respond to audit queries revealed in project activities conducted during his time of office.

Contacted on his mobile phone, Martin Hagenimana confirmed his dismissal but refrained from saying more as long as the case was submitted to the competent authorities.

MINICOM keeps silent on the matter

The journalist called the Hon. Minister of Trade and Industry Mr. Vincent Munyeshyaka requesting clarifications on this matter, however, the Minister sent him to the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Michel Sebera to facilitate him accordingly. However, the PS refused to respond to questions rather sent him back to the communications officer to complete the form to request for appointment and wait the appropriate time. Once we get feedback from the Ministry, we’ll publish accordingly.