A Senate report has shown that political parties in Rwanda have made significant progress in embedding democracy, governance; conflict and dispute resolution organs in their constitutions, however more needs to be done in financial audits.
The report presented this October 5th showed that though the 11 political parties have a level of environment to implement the above objectives and have maintained a clean financial record, not all have constitutionally backed methods of conducting their financial and assets audit.
Article 27 of the organic law of 2013 governing political parties requires parties to audit books of accounts and submit to the Office of Ombudsman no later than 30 September of each fiscal year.
The organic law, revised in 2018, requires parties to have statutes governing a political organization that must especially indicate the following: full name; objectives; insignia; its organs and t
heir structure including the organ in charge of discipline and settlement of disputes and the organ in charge of audit.
According to the Senate Committee on Political Affairs & Governance report of all the 11 political parties only four have managed to put in place an audit organ (committee) that is backed by their respective constitution (statute).
The ones that have financial audit organs in place are: Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Liberal Party (PL), Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Ideal Democratic Party (PDI).
The Senate Committee Chairperson, Senator Lambert Dushimimana said that in their findings, the other parties have been using consultancy services or setting up impromptu committees to do the audits to present to the ombudsman, which has always come out clean.
Dushimimana said that this financial record was satisfactory but when the committee enquired why the remaining parties had not implemented their legal obligations, they said that there was a setback caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of capacity building.
“We however asked them to speed up the process because there are some which have already started and yet to publish these changes as advised,” Dushimimana said.
Though the report was approved, Senators were more concerned about the given excuses for the delays by some political parties towards establishing financial audit organs of which the Senate said there must be a legal binding deadline to implement this requirement.
Senator Marie Rose Mureshyankwano and John Bonds Bideri pushed the senate committee to reprimand the concerned political parties to do so in about three months on grounds that this was citizen funds which need to be accounted for in the right manner.
“We need a commitment from the senate to give those political parties a specific timeline. If they were able to put in place other committees (discipline and dispute committees) that means they cannot use the excuse of COVID19 as reason for not putting in place audit organs. Instead they should use the same criteria,” Mureshyankwano said.
Senator Bideri argued that the COVID pandemic and capacity building shouldn’t be an excuse because all parties operate in the same environment and when it comes to capacity building they should be in place to do it themselves.
The committee chairperson Senator Dushimimana informed the house that they had discussions with heads of political parties and most of them showed willingness and some progress in implementing the requirement besides previous methods of audit used before.
“We discussed with them and they showed progress in changing statutes and almost ready to publish. We thought of giving them a timeline of one month but considering the situation today we found the pandemic would be a challenge. So we advised them to quicken up the process legally,” Dushimimana explained as the reason.
On the issue of deadline setting, the other senators like Evode Uwizeyimana said that the organic law doesn’t contain a specification that binds the parties to implement the requirement in a given timeline and neither does the senate have the power to reprimand the parties to do so.
In a long argument on this aspect, senators agreed on the sense of urgency of implementing the matter at hand as a way of abiding by the country’s strategy towards accountability and transparency.
Some of the concerned political parties like Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) said that they had a meeting with Senators sometime in July and informed them that they have an audit committee, but it’s based on internal rules and regulations and the Senate was okay with it.
“Their comment was that we should put it in our constitution and we agreed to do that when we get a chance to amend our constitution,” said Dr. Frank Habineza the DGPR President who also stated this shouldn’t be an issue since the Senate was happy with what was going on.