By Jean d’Amour Mugabo
Survey has indicated inaccuracies in Rwanda’s court rulings on crimes of public funds embezzlement and corruption.
Sharing the survey findings with stakeholders in a dialogue held in Kigali on Tuesday, Transparency International (TI) Rwanda urged the government to do more to ensure that judges comply with the laws and to step up efforts in recovering the public funds that the government has won in court.
The dialogue attracted the Ministry of Justice, the national prosecution, the investigation bureau, the ombudsman office and civil society, among others.
The Executive Director of Transparency International-Rwanda, Apollinaire Mupiganyi said that TI-Rwanda’s survey analysed 238 cases from December 2017 to December 2018.
Among the 238 defendants, 202 were males whereas only 36 were females.
“We have discussed with the concerned institutions about the public funds embezzlement and the status of assets recovery in order to see how institutions dealing with these crimes can do better in carrying out their responsibilities,” he said.
Mr Mupiganyi said that they found out that some of the cases are being tried unprofessionally while a whopping amount of the funds that the government won in court remain unrecovered. Rwf1.8 billion only has been recovered as Rwf4 billion remain at large.
“There is an improvement in recovery speed compared to 2015 when the Auditor General’s report indicated Rwf200 million only which was recovered out of Rwf1.6 billion but the pace is still slow. We urge the government to invest more efforts in the recovery,” he said.
The survey cited examples of inaccuracies in court rulings whereby many legal experts find the verdicts as contradicting the laws in place in the country. There is a ruling in which a judge ruled for the suspension of penalties on the reason that the accused was organising his wedding when he was arrested.
In another ruling, an embezzler of university’s funds admitted the charges in the first instance and was sentenced to seven years in jail but the appeal court ruled that the charges had no grounds and sentenced him to two years suspended which allowed him to subsequently leave the country.
“There are also examples where judges took different verdicts on similar cases and we wonder if the judges did not really have interest in some cases they favoured. Such court rulings allow criminals to use the money to enrich themselves and distort the evidence that would pin them on the alleged crimes,” said Mupiganyi.
The Courts’ Inspector and Judiciary Spokesperson, Harrison Mutabazi said that all courts have been required to file monthly reports of the rulings as a way of ensuring that they rule according to the laws.
“We have also started offering regular training to judicial personnel to ensure that they work more professionally,” he said.
The Rwanda Bribery Index (RBI) 2018 indicates that the judiciary sector is third at 16.23 per cent in share of bribery by institutions. The local governments take the largest portion with 30.9 per cent as traffic police come second with 29.69 per cent.
However, Rwanda has maintained a positive trajectory in fighting corruption over the last 10 years, according to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2018 released by Transparency International (TI) last month.
Rwanda was ranked the least corrupt east African country and 48th globally with the score of 56/100 out of 180 countries and territories studied.