The Roads Maintenance Fund (RMF) has been blamed for delaying to pay maintenance and construction companies, an aspect that could deter government efforts to create jobs and incomes for the youth.
During a September 7, 2023 Parliament Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing it was revealed that RMF, in collaboration with districts, contracted 153 youth-led companies to construct new roads but they were not paid on time (after 4 months of payment agreement).
The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) said that RMF performance audit for financial year 2021/2022 showed that the fund failed to pay the youth companies, and when the payments were made, there were over Rwf616million paid without proof papers, Rwf45million above the contract fees and receipts of Rwf3 million counted twice.
The RMF Director General, Mathias Sibomana said that there was a delay caused by districts not requesting for funding and a new decision taken is to change the way such activities are conducted with districts.
PAC showed that Rwf149millions remained unused yet budgeted for and some districts failed to implement their maintenance projects because funds were not disbursed well as RMF accused districts of not requesting- resulting into a blame game.
Faustin Tuyisenge representing the Ministry of Finance (Minecofin), told PAC that the money is available but the districts are reluctant to request it , thus making development activities redundant.
MPs said that this is an issue of lack of coordination and a clear indication of mismanagement of public funds.
“These are government funds that you are throwing out there without any explanation,” said MP Christine Bakundufite.
DG Sibomana couldn’t explain the reasons behind the delays to disburse funds to districts to pay off the above companies but stated that the extra paid money was recovered in due process.
PAC chairman MP Valens Muhakwa didn’t welcome this explanation and he said:
“You should be telling us the reason why the money was paid and not how you recovered it. This recovery is not your job and not what you should be discussing here,” Muhakwa said.
Assistant OAG, Jean Claude Munyanturire said that the money is supposed to be paid by number of Kilometers (kms) but instead RMF paid more money compared to the number of kilometers maintained.
“The point here is there should be prevention,” Munyanturire said.
The PAC hearing showed that RMF has a problem of not verifying the work done on site and thus dishing out money without a clear picture of the scope of work.
For instance, RMF paid Rwf160Million for the road barricades without a design and also paid a round figure of Rwf115million to a company to remove and dump soil piles without quotation of details.
MP Christine Bakundufite inquired who made this round figure and how can an institution guess a figure.
MP Jean Claude Ntezimana said funds above a million with no explanation is a sorry state of doing business.
“You say we are sorry just like that. This means we have no trust in you and we have lost funds. If you had done something about it, you wouldn’t be asking for a pardon,” Ntezimana said.
Justice Ministry Inspector, Eric Ntwari stated that RMF has to deal with issues of contract management and advised that they form a contract management team which is one of the advisory solutions proposed to other institutions.
Meanwhile, the roads inspection report by the OAG showed that they were half-hazzardly complete, had no beacons and trenches. For example,on the Shyira road (planned for Rwf2billion), the RMF report shows that 70% was complete yet some activities had not started on site, according to the OAG.
RMF DG explained that the beacons were stolen by the residents but PAC asked if that incident is true and has any relationship with the fact that roads were poorly constructed.
MP Angelique Nyirabazayire stated that all the issues raised here show negligence to abide by the tender law, and financial accountability.
“It is very sad to see the institution like this not being able to be accountable when they came to our committee to defend the same budget they cannot manage.This is something that I hope should not return here,” Nyirabazayire said.