The government is working on a plan that will help it come up with faster ways to pay a total of Rfw30bn that it owes in expropriation fees countrywide, which accumulated over a period, mainly from different infrastructure projects.
The revelation was made by Yves-Bernard Ningabire, Director of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Ministry of Local Government, while appearing before the Parliamentary Political Affairs and Gender Committee last week.
Ningabire said that as of November this year, the biggest chunk of the money was owed by the Rwanda Energy Group (REG) to a tune of Rfw15bn while the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) owes Rfw156m, the smallest amount.
Ningabire said that there were plans to come up with a strategy on how people would be compensated; pointing out that some payments will be done by the end of this fiscal year.
“For example, the Rwanda Transport Development Agency owes about Rwf13bn but already, Rfw2.5bn has been allocated to this debt in the 2018/2019 fiscal year. The 156m owed by WASAC will be paid this fiscal year. So we are working on it,” he said.
Besides these projects, government plans to construct an airport in Rubavu District and expropriation fees came to Rfw1.6bn. All this, he said, has been paid apart from 17 people who owed Rwf633m which will be paid this fiscal year.
In the Gishwati area, of the 6,500 people who were to be expropriated. 5,900 have been served.
Ningabire told the committee that there are several reasons why the government owes the money with some arrears going to as far back as 2007.
“The biggest challenges come with how projects are picked. I will give you an example. A road worth Rfw500m could cost Rfw2.5bn in expropriation fees. In such cases, the development partner will offer to finance the project but will expect the expropriation fees to be incurred by the government,” he said, adding that in the end, depending on how fast the project was moving, puts a lot of weight on district and other authorities.
He said that there was also issues of projects that were prepared hastily, with those preparing it having in mind only project financing without factoring in the expropriation costs.
Among other challenges, he mentioned the issue of many people who lack appropriate documentation, especially national IDs and land titles.
“This also delays payment but we can also fault local leaders whose duty is to furnish the documents so that this issue is cleared,” he said.
Ningabire said that as part of the solutions 2019 will see some changes in how Imihigo evaluations are done.
“It is because the projects that involve expropriation are the ones under Imihigo. When we are carrying out evaluations, we look at whether the project was executed and at what level. We are adding another factor of whether the project did not leave any other issues behind after execution,” he said.
He also told the lawmakers that there will be penalties on employees responsible for delayed payments.
He pointed out the need to put in more efforts in communicating to people about the progress of their payments saying that in the last two years, lots of money had been paid, attributing it to cooperation between institutions.
The chairperson of the Committee, Janvier Kanyamashuri, requested the ministry to give the issue of compensation special attention.
“It’s a serious issue that requires special attention, especially because of how old some of the debts are. It is unfair to the population and it definitely has an impact on the economy,” he said.
In its 2016 presentation at the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, the Legal Aid Forum (LAF) said that though compensation must be paid within 120 days of the approval of the evaluation, most expropriated individuals are not aware of it.
As of today, 150 people whose whereabouts are unknown still have their money unclaimed.