Rwanda: The Powerful Reasons Why Corruption Exists 3 February 2009 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is heartening indeed to see further proof of how determined the government is to fight corruption. An anti-corruption commission has been set up and we are sure it will have real teeth to bite. The Prosecutor General's office is steadily reeling in high-profile corruption suspects, apparently without fear or favor. Institutions like Rwanda Revenue Authority have been in the news for dismissing officials caught in one corrupt act or another. All this is very good. Now we at Focus would like to contribute to this fight - by pointing out some of the powerful reasons corruption exists in the first place, specifically in a country like Rwanda. Life in a poor country by itself will cause even the most honest human being to harbor thoughts of how to enhance their income through graft. Let's take an everyday necessity of life, such as the need to get from your house to your workplace every morning. Are you one of the numerous Rwandans who use the scrap heaps we call public taxis in this country? Or the death traps called moto? If so, we are sure you dream daily of owning your private means of getting from point A to B. And we do not find any fault with that, knowing how horrible our so-called public transportation is. If you are one of the lucky few and you own your successful private business you of course forgot long ago what it feels to enter a twegerane, which is a bit like entering a slightly subdued mad-house. And if you are in the other class of the lucky few, i.e. those with a good government job, the first thing you will do is take out a car loan and buy yourself a new vehicle. And we haven't even begun talking about the terror of falling sick and having to go to a hospital like CHUK. Having given that a brief thought, now let's see, what is a good government job? Obviously not one in the salary range of Frw 260,000 and below, per month. This is very little money when you consider what it costs to live in a place like Kigali where a half decent apartment starts at Frw 90,000 per month. You will have to engage in some extreme belt tightening if you are in this category (that is if you aren't someone's wife whose husband earns triple that). The allergens for corruption certainly are there. Let's now look at the posts that involve pay of, say from Frw 600,000 to 1,200,000. Here we begin to see the really big boys and girls - the directors and deputy directors in quasi autonomous government institutions (Riepa, RRA, RITA, ORTPN etc) and secretaries general in the ministries, the directors of budgets and so on. These are the individuals who in most cases happen to occupy posts with real opportunities for graft. And the evidence is that at least a few of them must be using those opportunities. How else do you account for the fact that one individual can make a payment of over Frw 100,000,000 (one hundred million) for a building in Nyarutarama, as was the case when the national information office (Orinfor) put some of its properties there on sale mid last year? How could a public servant, much as he may say he got a bank loan, even dream of getting that kind of money unless it is through backhanders? Here let us be emphatic: to build a house at Nyarutarama or to buy a building there is not automatic evidence of corruption. People do get honest bank loans which they pay up over a period of time - but you have to have worked at least a few years and made some prudent savings and planned long and hard for you to get your dream house there. Even then it will take you years to completely pay it off and get the bank off your back. But a civil servant making Frw 1 million who has occupied his post only two years who then buys a building of Frw 100,000,000? That stretches credulity. Let's also take a look at some of the typical ways a Rwandan who earns Frw 1 million spends. The gentleman or lady will simultaneously be servicing a car loan, a house loan, and will be paying school fees for three or four kids. (And by the way, that car has a habit of taking around Frw 35,000 from your pocket every three or four weeks for servicing, and that is not counting the fuel you have to put in). Relevant Links Central Africa Crime and Corruption Rwanda Of course since in poor countries like ours there are no social security nets such as any form of public assistance for the unemployed, our big gentleman will be sending some of his money to support poor relatives upcountry (which every now and then may include medical costs); plus he may have to accommodate a couple or young men or women who have come to board with him as they search for employment. There are also the endless requests for intwererano (that polite form of begging) to fundraise for weddings that one has to contribute to whether or not one has the slightest inclination to. At this rate it will be a miracle if there is anything remaining on that 1 million at the end of the month.