As Rwanda seeks to improve efficiency and minimise waste, lawmakers have endorsed plans to give more powers to the president. This will enable him to create and disband public institutions and state-owned companies.
Currently, Rwanda’s parliament determines establishment and dissolution of public institutions. However, Article 4 of a draft law, establishing provisions governing public institutions, says establishment and dissolution of a public institution will be determined by a presidential order.
The draft law was recently passed by parliament with 78 MPs voting for it, 2 against it and also by the Senate. It now awaits endorsement by Cabinet then a presidential signature before being gazetted.
The 2019 Auditor-General’s report said the ineffective management of parastatals stems from parliamentary shackles that prevent them from the flexibility accorded private business ventures. Ceding powers to the president is expected to solve this. It also added that up to 31 per cent of public institutions do not have clean audits. While 15 per cent had adverse opinion compared with 19 per cent in 2018. The Auditor-General noted that some institutions, particularly public utilities including Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and the Water and Sanitation Authority (Wasac) have habitually mismanaged state resources.
“Government institutions like Wasac that are supported to provide a service are still operating at a loss. What is preventing them from operating like a profit-making company?” Obadiah Biraro, the Auditor-General asked.
MPs Backing the Draft Law
Proponents of the Bill argue that the implementation of government policies will be freed from rigorous red-tape and bureaucratic processes in parliament. Hence, it will ensure the acceleration in the implementation of government programmes and policies.
MPs who voted for the Bill say they were compelled by the “abnormally long procedures required to establish public institutions.”
“Presidential orders are very effective as opposed to parliamentary processes,” said John Ruku-Rwabyoma, an RPF MPs.
Frank Habineza, one of the Green Party MPs who voted against the Bill, said that “it is not right to concentrate all powers in one arm of government. Our oversight role as the legislature arm of government is going to be crippled by such precedents.
“Power-sharing between the executive, legislature and the judiciary, as stipulated in the Constitution, is being eroded under this Bill.”
According to Louis Gitinywa, a constitutional lawyer, the proposed amendments contradict the Constitution. It particularly contradicts Article 64 which states: “Legislative power is vested in the parliament composed of two chambers.”