Rwanda facing new forms of corruption

Anti-Corruption ad in the Rwandan capital Kigali

Anti-Corruption ad in the Rwandan capital Kigali

New forms of corruption have continued to manifest in the Rwandan society despite efforts by government efforts of zero tolerance to the practice and to keep clean Rwanda’s image on the regional and global map.

Although Rwanda is among Africa’s five least corrupt nations, the Ombudsman’s office says that new forms of corruption and bribery have surfaced over the last decade with new ways coming up, making it more difficult to trace and investigate the cases.

“This shift has been caused by the trends of technology, modernisation and it is indeed very hard to track down these cases. That is why the government has put a lot of emphasis in educating the population on these new forms” Nadege Nzeyimana, the Ombudsman’s office Public Relations officer said.

This comes at a time when the number of reported cases of corruption have been increasing over the years but the Ombudsman’s office has attributed the increase to the efforts and contribution of Rwandans in reporting such cases.

The 2013-14 Ombudsman’s report indicates that 102 cases were reported in relation to corruption, bribery in areas of services, governance, tenders, employment, and financial management.

The highest number of corruption cases ranged from poor management in administrative levels in which 61 cases were reported, 19 cases in tendering procedures, and bribery in the service sector and sex exploitation were among the few cases reported.

While Rwanda continues to be among the fastest growing economies, some of the recent forms of corruption that have been highlighted in areas of employment sector where sex is offered in exchange for a job, the Judiciary taking bribes in case rulings, and in procurement where tender procedures have been marred by kickbacks even at the national tender board.

According to Transparency International Rwanda, some of the unusual forms of corruption include offering gifts under the guise of cultural norms like “gutwerera” (contribution to one’s wedding costs), “impano” (gifts such as cows) and “gusengera” (buying a drink for someone with an intention to get a service from them or to thank them).

Use of technology has been the greatest challenge for enforcement authorities to track down cases of corruption due to lack of evidence especially in cases of hacking and sex bribes, but police says that they are measuring adapting to the changing times.

The Police Spokesman, Celestin Twahirwa says that the police has evolved to meet the new forms of corruption and bribery and it has the means to investigate them.

“In response, the police has so far established three departments- a special ‘Anti -corruption and Public Fund Embezzlement Unit’, Cyber security and the unit has so far managed to pursue over 200 cases in its operations within the last eight months,” Twahirwa said.

One of the highlighted cases which indicate changing trends in corruption include that of two employees of the national bank of Rwanda who managed to hack through the bank security system to rob about Rwf260 million.

Other corporate companies like the national carrier-Rwandair, telecommunication companies like Tigo and MTN have also succumbed to high tech theft – where agents of MTN Mobile Money, TIGO Cash and AIRTEL have connived with civil servants to facilitate “corruption funds” without any trace of government officials involved.

Gender based corruption has also been cited among the forms of corruption which are not easy to tackle, due to the fact that victims mostly prefer not to report it or lack tangible evidence in the court.

To cut down on these cases, a national consultative meeting on corruption held in July agreed to put its focus on teaching society especially the youth, enhancing communication and collaboration of institutions involved in the fight against corruption, enforcement (and review if needed) of laws that concern corruption practices and to fast-track the startup of the E-procurement and E-payment projects.

Experts say that the levels of corruption have already started hitting on the country’s performance especially in major economic projects which have been delayed by investors as coordinators are investigated by the authorities.

According to the Global Corruption Barometer 2013, by Transparency International, Corruption and bribery are perceived to be getting worse in many countries, and trust in governments is falling worldwide with one in every four people paying a bribe to access public institutions and services.