The former Rwanda Cooperatives Agency (RCA) boss, Prof. Jean Bosco Harelimana has failed to appear before the September 13, 2023 Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing with no excuse or explanation, an action which could take him to court.
Harelimana was supposed to be on the team of current and former RCA officials to respond to queries in the OAG report of fiscal year 2021/2022 but some minutes after 4PM when the session was scheduled to start, he was nowhere to be seen.
The PAC hearing was forced to take a break to decide whether to proceed without him or not. After the decisive break, the committee announced the hearing will proceed and his successors would take on the queries.
PAC Chairman Valens Muhakwa sent Harelimana this message saying: “Tell him He has to think twice and ask us to grant him time to respond to the querries in the OAG report, but this has to be his initiative.”
The current acting DG of RCA, Pacifique Mugwaneza told PAC that the former boss was contacted several times to remind him of the hearing but in vain, and at one point contacted by the line minister (Ministry of Trade-MINICOM) but he didn’t respond to the phone call.
The Permanent Secretary of Minicom, Richard Niwenshuti, told PAC that it is out of order for a summoned official to fail to attend a public hearing without any explanation.
The PAC Chairperson said that the follow up on the case of the former DG is handed over to the relevant judicial institutions including the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and the National Prosecution Authority (NPPA) who will look into the next measures to be taken if need be.
PAC Members showed mistrust in the financial books of the cooperative agency saying that there are high chances of embezzlement that were conducted by officials.
Challenges include, but are not limited to failure to follow up on funds recovery, lack of supported documents of financial transactions, among others.
The review of monitoring and evaluation report on implementation status of RCA audit recommendations on 46 cooperatives sampled among audit carried out between 2016 and 2021, revealed embezzlement amounting to Rwf871,522,147 occurred in 34 cooperatives. RCA audit recommended to recover the amount. However, only Rwf17,894,180 equivalent to 2% of total embezzlement was recovered by cooperatives
RCA explained that the above cases have been submitted to RIB. However, there is no proof of any other follow up done.
The AG said that failure to follow up the low recovery rate of the amount stolen may hinder development of cooperatives in Rwanda, an indication that RCA is not achieving overall mission.