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How A World Bank Multibillion Funded Project Could Go Into Flames

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In 2020, the Auditor General, Obadia Biraro, had heavily worded statements in his annual report.

In one of his statements Biraro observed that despite the descending trend, public funds and resources management in some public entities are still weak and need improvement.

“Unnecessary, unlawful and wasteful expenditure should be avoided if public entities exercised due care in their operations, coupled with prudent management of public resources,” he said in his report released in May 2021.

For years, the Auditor General’s recommendations have barely been implemented primarily due to inadequate coordination of efforts, according to him.

“This is more so on irregularities that do not fall under the purview of a single public institution,” he says.

Under these circumstances, implementing audit recommendations requires, Biraro insists, “concerted efforts and absolute dedication from the management of government agencies and those entrusted with governance.”

Eighty-one (81) public entities had long outstanding creditors and debtors’ balances up to Frw13 billion and Frw50.5 billion in their financial statements respectively.

These balances have been outstanding without movement for up to 10 years. “Financial statements for these entities are not fairly stated,” the AG noted.

Bank reconciliations for twenty (20) bank accounts with balances totaling Frw254 million had unreconciled differences without explanation.

In addition, bank reconciliations for five (5) bank accounts with balances totaling Frw129.3 million had irregular reconciling items. This is an indication that the reported bank balances were not accurate.

A review of the budget execution report revealed that internally generated revenue and expenditure of Non-Budget Agencies were not included in the national budget approved by parliament.

Disclosures made for NBAs revealed that a total of Frw108 billion of internally generated revenues and expenditure of Frw170 billion were omitted from government expenditure for the year ended at 30 June 2020.

However, the current year audits found 62 cases of delayed contracts worth Frw216 billion in 38 public entities and projects. 

These consist of 50 delayed contracts worth Frw195 billion identified during the year under 12 contracts worth Frw21 billion from previous audits. Delays were up to 2,721 days.

These are just a few picks from the report. In the AG’s view, each oversight body, stakeholders and accountability institutions must play a role and lend total support to resolving this concern.

In response to these recurring challenges, the Ministry of Finance (MINECOFIN) is seeking the help of a qualified consultancy firm to assist in the migration to accrual accounting based on International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), under the Public Finance Management Reform Project (RPFMR). The three-year project is funded by the World Bank.

Five international audit firms have been preselected from which one of them shall be awarded the tender to offer the services mentioned.

The firms, Taarifa has learnt, include CCM (Belgian), with a quotation of Rwf2.3 billion, ADP (Kenyan) seeking Rwf1.6 billion, BDO (UK) quoting RwfRwf4.2, KPMG (Anglo-Dutch) with Rwf4.4 billion and PwC (UK) quoting Rwf4.5billion.

These firms, according to our sources, were preselected from a total of nine who had submitted their bids. The scrutiny is now projected on the remaining five.

Scrutiny, however, according to our sources, should have been conducted earlier before a mere shortlisting because of a long list of concerns surrounding these particular firms in question.

The nature of due diligence conducted against the preselected five firms is being questioned due to their previous records working in Rwanda with various public institutions on a number of sensitive and heavy projects.

Taarifa has learnt that there was no in-depth analysis conducted to ascertain the reputation of these firms and specifically three of them that have been operating in Rwanda for the last decade.

Fears have been expressed that even though some of the firms are aiming at the big four, they have a troubling track record with various institutions.

Taarifa has gathered details on each firm.

ADP’s offer is believed to be a low quotation signaling a lack of full knowledge on the scope of work. Sources privy to this tender say the fee quoted by ADP is below expected threshold to execute such an assignment if MINECOFIN goes by the lowest bidder.

CCM is also seen through the same lens as the Kenyan firm, and the only difference is that the Belgian has indeed handled major projects in several fields, and with no known records of contractual failures in Rwanda yet.

The remaining three are in the same range with minor differences in their financial offer with a disparity of Rwf0.3 between the lowest and highest bidder.

BDO is as large as the other two, and operating under a franchise arrangement except that in the bid, BDO UK was the bidder and not BDO Rwanda. 

However, BDO Rwanda, according to sources, might be the one to execute the tender with assistance from BDO UK, if they win. 

BDO Rwanda has had several contractual faults. For example, the firm has not fully completed the contract to rebuild WASAC’s opening balance sheet after it was split from ELECTROGAZ in 2010.    

KPMG is one of the Big Four international accounting organizations, however, KPMG Rwanda is a franchise. They have operated in Rwanda for over a decade. 

Prior to opening their office in Rwanda in 2010, KPMG had already begun working with the government to implement the privatization program and modernizing Rwanda Revenue Authority among other institutions. 

Our sources did not speak well about KPM’s previous assignments. We learned about contracts such as that of RRA to reconcile tax accounts that were meant to be completed in one year, but went on for three years now. 

“We have a historical issue that we are now cleaning up,” a source in RRA told Taarifa. 

“But they are progressing.” KPMG is also accused of failing to complete their contract of separating pension schemes for RSSB, giving the institution a burden to explain itself every year to the Auditor General.

PwC is also among the big four. It was the first among the big four to expand its African network by opening an office in Kigali, Rwanda. PwC had first served Rwanda for a number of years on a fly-in, fly-out basis from neighbouring African countries.

Sources say PwC has had a whirlwind of errands with several institutions for years, including a bad experience with MINECOFIN itself where a five year contract to assist in consolidating public accounts went bad.

An anonymous source in MINECOFIN testified to Taarifa that these institutions are on their watch list for unethical behaviour and antagonising experiences in the market, “unfortunately they are the big ones we have and we don’t regulate them. Go ask the regulator.”

The regulator is the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda (iCPAR).

In defence of the firms

The CEO of iCPAR, Amin Miramago, was very categorical when Taarifa sought his comment. He defended the firms.

He said that what’s said about these firms should be looked at in many dimensions with careful considerations.

First, he noted that most of the public institutions these firms serve, have legacy issues that are too complicated. 

“They do this and then do that and you find them in constant situations that are hard to fix,” Miramago said, adding that, “When you implement a reform, you need to give it time to assess the results before you bring in something new.”

He blamed contracting institutions for failing to implement advisory work offered by the firms they contracted. “They are always playing victim cards,” Miramago said. 

That in the event of knowledge that the firms are hiring unqualified staff or subcontracting others for example, as it is said out there, “why give them contracts and cry crocodile tears later? ..it is the negligence of those institutions, it is their responsibility to follow up and see if the contractor is meeting contractual obligations or not, if they aren’t meeting their obligations, they should take actions against them.”

Despite Miramago’s defense, Taarifa has learnt that major firms have another game they play to survive in the market. 

Sources that couldn’t provide tangible evidence for fear of losing their jobs, say the firms offer kickbacks to secure contracts. 

And by doing so, those who take the kickbacks and are responsible for holding the firms accountable, eventually lose the moral authority to hold the firms accountable.

This did not sound well in Miramago’s ears. He revealed to Taarifa a different practice, without refuting the corruption allegations. He said the problem he is aware of in the market is malice.

“I regulate all firms; big, medium and small. The most malicious firms are the big ones because they are in a small market,” Miramago confessed and gave an example of a scenario where a certain firm he didn’t want to mention, backstabbed another and sent the contracting institution into a panic mode so that the contract could be awarded to them.

Nevertheless, the auditing practice, an independent auditor told Taarifa, “has become a commodity…truth be told, they are doing whatever they want in the market because of connections to powerful individuals in government, unfortunately it’s the economy that suffers.”

But Miramago doesn’t buy this argument. He says that’s not something as a regulator he can tolerate, instead, he said, “the firms you mentioned are internationally recognised brands that have a reputation and they add value to our economy especially that we now attract global institutions that will need their services.”

And that’s not what everyone thinks. “The only thing international you have there is the name,” an auditor in one of the four firms confessed.

Whether that is considered during tendering or not, remains known to those who sign contracts in closed doors.

As we await the final announcement this June, may the best bidder win, if not, for Obadia, we could be seen as the Somali camel rotating around the well thinking it is on the move.

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Special Report

When Rwanda Was Accused Of Stealing Burundi Drums

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Before colonial  interference and eventual drawing of imagined boundaries, Rwanda and Burundi were once one solid nation known as Ruanda-Urundi later Rwanda-Burundi as a colonial territory, once part of German East Africa, which was ruled by Belgium from 1916 to 1962.

The People of Burundi and Rwanda speak a simillar language and practice the same culture and various norms.

Now two independent countries with extremely diverse visions, their recent past relationship  has not been one to boast about. Their militaries repeatedly clash, governments slam doors on each other and trade unending accusations but also surprisingly return to roundtable and mend fences without mediation.

In 2019, Burundi Accused Rwanda Of Stealing Drums Culture And Doing It So Badly.

It all started in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled to Rwanda from brutality of Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime as he was seeking a forced third term in office contrary to constitutional provision leading to a failed coup.

Among those that fled Burundi, included a group of Drummers organised under Himbaza group. In 2019, this group applied to take part in the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi-Kenya.

The group registered as from Rwanda. But when introducing themselves to the audience, they said they were Burundian refugees who had been living in Rwanda since 2015.

Himbaza group Performing at the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi

Willy Nyamitwe, a senior advisor and spokesman of Burundi’s former President Nkurunziza, was not amused at all.

“Not Original and not Authentic at all,” he wrote on Twitter, August 19. “These guys should be ashamed for debasing the quality and the cultural originality of Burundi drums in Rwanda,” Nyamitwe said.

However, “Himbaza Drummers” were so good that the judges voted them to the next round.

Organizers of the show, in response said via a statement that they “deeply regret” if any offence has been done by inclusion of the Himbaza drummers.

“Entry to the show was open to anyone who has the legal right to residence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania irrespective of their nationality. The contestants are legal residents of Rwanda and therefore are legitimate contestants on the show,” said organisers.

Demonstrations against the Government of Rwanda in the Burundian capital were the order of the day, hundreds of Rwandans and their businesses were targeted but Rwanda refused to be provoked.

In 2014 UNESCO registered the ritual dance of the royal drum a Burundian tradition as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity  with hope to preserve and share with the world.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye (right) drumming sacred drums

Rwanda and Burundi currently maintain a closed border and have clashed several times since 2015 but the two sides have been involved in shuttle diplomacy and have announced that anytime the border may reopen.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is currently enjoying his annual leave, chose to traverse the country and visit various touristic destinations. He has been seen with his family enjoying boat ride, walking through a forest and most recently he visited Sanctuaire des tambours sacrés de Gishora (Sanctuary of the sacred drums of Gishora) in Gitega province.

He garbbed drum sticks cheerfully spotting the red, white and green national colors of the famous Burundian drummers. Ndayishimiye did not hesitate to harmoniously sketch a few dance steps. He even sang some patriotic songs.

“You who have devoted your life to the drums, I did not barter the zither for the modest sum of 80 francs, I did not throw away my 90 francs for a razor blade, I did not betray my country for 1,000 francs, I did not become a young man, the kind of spendthrift in well-watered parties”.

And the guardians of the sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora loudly proclaim their approval by responding loudly with their cry: “Eeeeh! ”

The sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora: “It houses the Ruciteme and Murimirwa drums, 119 years, and served as a place of refuge for King Mwezi Gisabo when the resistance against the German invasion was organized.”

Ndayishimiye’s visit at the site hosting sacred drums of Gishora may have been a signal to end the Drum politics that had pitted the two countries against each other in 2019 and could pave way for opening a new chapter with Rwanda once accused of stealing these drums.

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Special Report

Habyarimana Sent Finance Minister’s Wife To Poison Kagame

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In February 1992, a very busy Paul Kagame while commanding Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels, set aside some time to have an exclusive conversation with Sam Mukalazi, a Ugandan journalist at one of the rebel bases at Muvumba in Rwanda.

The war had entered its second year since the former refugees united and armed under Rwanda Patriotic Front/army overran Kagitumba border post on October 1, 1990.

The clashes were intense as heavily armed and well trained government forces, with support of air power, inflicted heavy casualties on rebels.

Kagame told Mukalazi that the rebel movement had suffered major losses and the rebels had lost morale especially influenced by successive deaths of their commanders at the start of the war.

Kagame, who was away on the first day of attack, flew back from the US to replace fallen commander Fred Rwigema who had been killed in action.

During this conversation, Kagame told the journalist that he had vowed to reorganise the rebel group and had begun achieving remarkable success, for example, his efforts had paid off in capturing a vast stretch of several kilometres deep from Kgaitumba to Ruhengeri and was considered the rebel operational zone.

“There is a large portion of this stretch on which the enemy cannot dare step,” Kagame told the journalist.

Commander Kagame boasted that the biggest and most successful battle in 1992 was in Butaro, starting January 23 and continuing for 10 days.

“We attacked enemy defences in Nyamucucu,Kitenge and Butaro and we overrun six of their seven defences,” he said.

He told Mukalazi that these RPA victories on the battlefield had provided strength to the rebels.

However, President Juvenal Habyarimana in Kigali was planning something terrible against rebel leader Kagame.

It should be remembered that 1992 was a busy year for both fighting sides.

The government army was fiercely fighting with the rebels while their political representatives were dressed up in suits for roundtable peace talks in neighbouring Arusha, Tanzania.

Habyarimana had carefully identified a non suspecting person to deliver and administer poison to Kagame. The Kigali regime had on several occasions declared Kagame dead.

“We arrested a woman sent by the Kigali government with some poison meant to finish me off,” Kagame disclosed to Mukalazi with a smile. “Even if I died, the struggle would go on,” Kagame added.

The woman was identified as Eugenia Kaitesi and said to be a wife of the former Rwandan Minister of Finance.

Kaitesi had been arrested in mid 1991 and was still being held by the rebels at the time of the conversation with this journalist.

According to Kagame, the woman assassin had claimed that her assignment was being coordinated by a Rwandan diplomat in Uganda and that if she had succeeded with this assassination mission, she was going to acquire a big mansion in Brussels at the expense of the Rwanda government.

Jean Pierre Claver Kanyarushoki was the  Rwandan ambassador to Uganda and led the Rwanda government delegation to Arusha peace talks in the same year.

The intention of the Habyarimana regime announcing the rebel commander’s death might have been to raise the morale of government demoralised troops that had lost subsequent battles.

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Special Report

Was Museveni’s France-Trained Mountain Army Ready For War Against ADF?

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2016 developed an idea of creating an army specialized in mountain warfare because the UPDF had on various occasions suffered humiliation at the hands of Allied Democratic Front Rebels based in Rwenzori Mountain stretching along the DRC border.

The ADF rebels who had since 1995 mastered the mountain terrain would descend from Rewenzori mountain jungles and easily strike at any target within towns of Fort portal and Kasese including overrunning army posts, police stations and kidnapping people.

Such maneuvers by rebels gave Museveni countless sleepless nights and for many years couldn’t find a fitting solution. The rebels were based inside Uganda and Museveni feared a repeat of what his rebel group did to previous governments.

The ADF had gained monstrous support from people in the Rwenzori sub region stretching the entire western frontier.

The Rwenzuru kingdom had also been sucked in as it was evident that Uganda Peoples Defence Force had lost control in this region.

Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere used this opportunity to revive the 1960’s secessionist plan of his forefathers.

The Kingdom has always held intentions to secede from the rest of Uganda and create its own Yiira Republic.

Mumbere himself, a trained soldier, clandestinely coordinated the transition of the royal guard force into a fully-fledged army as he thought to curve-out and declare an independent territory known as  Yiira Republic.

Tribal fighters under their so-called Kilhumira Mutima (the Strong-Hearted) group had bolstered support from the other side of the border in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which is populated by people who are ethnically related to the people of the Rwenzori region.

Kilhumira Mutima secession movement had established hundreds of bases and sleeper cells across the Rwenzori region both in Uganda and in the DRC.

These fighters trained from up the mountains and enjoyed collaboration from the ADF group that also is camped within the mountains.

Kilhumira Mutima and ADF operating in the same region with the common enemy became a very big security threat to the Kampala establishment as several attacks weakened the police and military in the Rwenzori region.

On November 26, 2016 Museveni ordered heavily armed police to raid the Rwenzururu kingdom resulting in the killing of eight Rwenzururian royal guards and arrest of two others.

According to government, the raid was in response to militant attacks on police posts in the region two weeks earlier, allegedly perpetrated by the royal guards.

Government issued an ultimatum demanding the surrender of royal guards, the king and all Kilhumira Mutima fighters.

On the next day, after expiration of the ultimatum, Uganda armed forces and police raided the Rwenzururu royal palace resulting in the deaths of 87 royal guards and 16 policemen and more than 180 people.

Following the raids, the Omusinga (king) of Rwenzururu, Charles Mumbere, was arrested and charged with murder.

The attack on Rwenzururu kingdom was globally criticized as gross abuse and tantamount to war crimes and violation of human rights.

Lieutenant General Peter Elwelu who commanded the attack on Rwenzururu kingdom was later slapped with US sanctions.

UPDF soldier in an unidentified forest. Uganda government in November deployed its Mountain brigade into the DRC jungles to hunt for Allied Democratic Front Rebels linked to ISIS. Experts Argue that the choice of mountain army for jungle warfare was a tactical mistake that may hinder operations

Museveni Orders Creation of Mountain Army

After suffering much humiliation from ADF and an insurrection from Rwenzururu kingdom, Museveni attributed the whole mess to intelligence failure, “How did these people weave such a scheme without being pre-empted?”

With admission of failure on handling a minor tribal domestic issue, Museveni decided to create a UPDF mountain brigade and looked to France to offer specialized training of the new unit.

French Alpine troops flew to Uganda to embark on this training mission of a new Ugandan army unit to help combat violence in the mountainous Rwenzori sub- region.

Chasseurs alpins are the elite mountain infantry force of the French Army. They are trained to operate in mountainous terrain and in urban warfare.

“This training of the UPDF in mountain warfare is necessitated to secure the Ugandan mountains for the security of those living nearby and for tourism,” Museveni said in 2016.

The French established Karugutu Training school which specializes in Mountain War Fare Technical Courses.

For the French military industry, Museveni’s mountain army project offers business- already Marck & Balsan a  French defence equipment manufacturer won a major equipment and materials supply tender under military cooperation arrangements.

“As ADF spreads across Eastern Congo, we need more capabilities to monitor and deter them from using our mountain ranges by deploying specialized forces. The Albertine Region needs serious protection for the young oil industry to thrive,” said a former CDF Gen David Muhoozi.

However, the real test for Museveni’s mountain army came to a test last month when President Felix Tshisekedi invited Uganda to hunt for the ADF inside Congo.

For Museveni, the Mountain army headed by Maj.Gen. Kayanja Muhanga was the choice to deploy for this mission in an operation named Shujja.

In less than a week into the operation, Maj.Gen. Kayanja announced a halt in the operation against the rebels citing impassable roads, thick forests and bad weather that made it impossible for any advance onto the rebel bases.

This mountain army was a bad choice for the operations against ADF require a unit with special jungle warefare skills.

It should be remembered that for more than 7 years, the Congolese army and Monusco had been pursuing these rebels in the dense jungles with no success.

On realization of lack of skills in jungle warfare, Monusco decided to invite Brazil troops to train Congolese army in jungle combat skills.

Beni and Ituri are extremely forested with a tormenting equatorial climate all year round.

The rebels and other armed groups set up bases in the middle of these forests and have remained untouched. They easily walkout and terrorise neighbouring areas and return to base scot-free.

It was therefore a tactical mistake in choosing a mountain unit to conduct operations in a flat densely forested terrain with equatorial weather.

Uganda had one last choice- to use their air force and artillery to seemingly bombard rebel bases in the forests but their accuracy in targeting these bases is still a matter of debate because of high margin of error in obtaining accurate coordinates to facilitate pilots and artillery gunners.

Like as always predicted, military experts argue that on the part of UPDF there was minimal pre-operations intelligence collected and this could have forced the UPDF into a halt mode as its Intel teams collect real-time data on the ADF.

Thus as UPDF reorgansises itself and allowing the Congolese to take lead of this operation,  the Ugandans will spend more time constructing the roads as part of fulfilling payment of a colossal U$10billion in fines to losses it inflicted onto DRC during the UPDF occupation 20 years ago.

 

Uganda Suffocates With $10Bn Compensation To DRC

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