In October 2018, the Rwanda parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) got a man to replace its former iron hand chairman, Juvenal Nkusi, who run the committee held government official accountable for more than eight years.
The longest serving Parliamentarian Nkusi, from Social Democratic Party (PSD) who had retired and latter reappointed to the senate had pulled out of politics and his term was up in the house and it was believed that no one would come close to his grip on how he run the committee business.
For example, while Nkusi was chairman, he was assisted by former MP Theoneste Karenzi.
With no fear of favour, Nkusi backed by Karenzi would follow every single penny detail in the Auditors General report and make sure that the government officials give an explanation, recommending subsequent action.
His efforts came with recommendation and implementation of training of all finance managers and setting up of Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) units in every public entity with responsibility to manage and oversee the implementation of all projects components by providing strategic oversight.
The Nkusi-PAC legacy also came with a push for the prosecution to take action on defaulters of the OAG financial report and by the time the duo left the house in 2018, a handful of government officials had been prosecuted and funds recovered.
OAG report shows that close to Rwf260 billion was mismanaged in 2015/16, and in the last five years, 999 government officials have been prosecuted, 270 convicted for Rwf4.2 billion and over Rwf3.8 billion recovered but 625 of the accused have voluntarily returned Rwf999.8 million plus $9,100 and €3,225.
All this file work was put to a total new 9-person PAC committee led by Dr. Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, also PSD member, who holds PhD in Agricultural Economics, Bachelors of Science in Business Economics, a Master’s of Science in Economics, with a special focus on Microeconomic Analysis of Economic Development.
In one year, Ngabitsinze with his team (majority women MPs), double stepped in the foot of his predecessor.
Inside PAC last year, Ngabitsinze and team grilled public officials including ministers and director generals of public enterprises.
Laxity to respond appropriately and signs of disrespectful officials didn’t go unpunished.
For instance, in September 2019, two officials of Rwanda Education Board (REB) were thrown out of PAC hearing for telling lies in front of the committee’s public hearing.
With the Prosecutor having a permanent seat inside PAC under Ngabitsinze’s regime, some district officials who appeared before PAC failed to explain their financial decisions and with the power of the parliament recommendations on administrative action, some were forced to resign from duties.
This was preceded by a wave of district Mayors resignations and many more officials have continued to resign, prosecuted just days before Ngabitsinze was on March 9, 2020 appointed the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
“We have to work for the citizens and the country comes first,” Ngabitsinze told KTPress after his new appointment as Minister of State at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
Who is going to replace you? I asked him, a question he couldn’t give an answer for, obviously. As per the procedure, the parliament will first within the next months, have to get a replacement (either by appointment or bi-election) for a new PSD MP in the replacement of Ngabitsinze and then hold a plenary sitting to elect the PAC Chair.
Inside the current PAC itself, there are women MPs Annonciata Mukarugwiza (the current PAC vice chairperson) and Beline Uwineza, who is the Chairperson of Rwanda Women Parliamentary Forum (FFRP) and Alice Uwera Kayumba, and Marie Mediatrice Izabiliza, incumbent Vice Chair Rwanda Patriotic Front RPF Inkotanyi women Congress.
These women could stand chances because they are equally outspoken in the plenary and inside the PAC meetings.
While these female MPs are already part of PAC committee, another MP is also to watch. MP Clarisse Imaniriho is commonly seen showing interest in participating as an observer MP in some of the PAC sessions.
25-year-old Imaniriho is probably the youngest MP ever in Rwanda’s history, but has leadership skills. She was a nominee for chairperson of RPF Inkotanyi women congress.
Eyeing the post on the sidelines would be Christine Mukabunani, of PS Imberakuri, who pulled out her candidature during the 2018 PAC elections and has a passion for leadership after building and growing her political party from hard days into becoming a fully recognized party.
If parliament cannot choose any of these women, and limited to choose from some of the potential MPs because they already lead other committees, MPs like Théogène Munyangeyo will have to be shifted from chairing the Economic and trade committee to PAC.