The University of Rwanda (UR) has revealed that the Swedish PhD research program for Rwanda will be extended to 2026, following its setback and interruptions caused by COVID-19.
This resolve was revealed by UR officials Tuesday September 14, 2021 while appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing in which they were asked to explain issues of mismanagement in the Rwanda-Sweden Scholarship program.
The Auditor General’s report 2019/2020 indicated that there was poor budgetary performance in implementation of UR-Sweden research program phase 4, year 1 (2019-2020) and UR had only used a small portion of the budget.
On 28 June 2019, the Government of Rwanda represented by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) and the Government of Sweden represented by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) signed a Research Partnership 2019-2024 (phase 4) Grant agreement for the University of Rwanda.
Its overall objective was “to increase the production of relevant high-quality scientific knowledge that contributes to Rwanda becoming a knowledge-based economy”.
The program implementation period was four year, meant for UR staff skills upgrading, for a period starting from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2023; with an estimated total cost of SEK 330,000,000 which is equivalent to Rwf31.6 billion.
However, review of budget execution for the year ended 30 June, 2020 revealed that the total approved budget (Rwf3,686,328,411) was executed at a very low rate of 20% meaning that only Rwf746,5 million was used leaving a difference of Rwf2,9billion hanging.
“Such a low budget absorption rate implies that some planned activities could not be executed. Hence, the associated objectives of the project may not be timely achieved,” the Office of the Auditor General said in a comment.
MPs asked why all this money is shelved yet government continues to seek grants throughout the year.
“If you are using only 20% don’t you see that this money will be returned to the donors at the end of the program lifeline,” MP Christine Bakundufite asked.
Francoise Kayitare Tengera, the UR Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration and Finance said this slow pace was caused by COVID-19 travel restrictions and this affected the whole year at a larger extent.
“The program was put on hold for a whole year for many reasons but we have discussed an amended draft agreement considering a new agreement to extend the scholarship program period to 2026 which means the program is still on,” said Tengera.
Despite this response the UR officials didn’t survive being accused of wasteful expenditure and negligence on key education projects and losing funds in lost court cases in which the university was sued by suppliers.
For example, a review of expenditure for the year ended 30 June 2020 revealed that UR incurred wasteful expenditure amounting to Rwf46, 520,863 resulting from lost court cases due to improper and inappropriate decisions and actions by UR Management.
The UR was also blamed for purchasing a “RANDOX IMOLA” dental Lab equipment that was not operational due to lack of maintenance plans yet a total of Rwf62, 466,632 was paid in June 2014 to acquire this dental machine.
This, said the auditor General, hindered service delivery to the beneficiaries.
The university was also ordered to follow up on unused fleets of vehicles and one motor vehicle sold by SAR Motor Garage without approval of UR in which an audit noted that on 02nd October 2019, UR management reported this case to Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) but there has been no follow up.