By The East African
President Paul Kagame has sacked the entire staff of a vital unit in the Ministry of Health accused of gross mismanagement of public resources.
More ministry officials are likely to be prosecuted following the sacking of its human resources director and 23 employees of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) that oversees medical and healthcare services.
The Cabinet chaired by the President Kagame on Wednesday sacked Hamad Baligira, director of human resources and administration at the Ministry of Health, and Théogène Namahungu, director of the Health Technology and Infrastructure Planning Unit at RBC and 22 staff of the RBC’s medical technology and infrastructure division.
The unit deals with issues ranging from infrastructure and medical equipment for health facilities across the country.
“The Cabinet meeting removed from duties all the staff from Medical Technology and Infrastructure Division [at RBC] due to inefficiencies affecting the performance of the health sector,” reads the statement on Cabinet Decisions.
The unprecedented move comes after persistent adverse reports by the Auditor-General showing some public institutions among them the Health ministry and the RBC, which falls under the ministry, have serious financial flaws.
The officers are likely to face prosecution for inefficiencies and mismanagement of public resources, a source at the Health ministry told The EastAfrican.
The sacking of Hamad Baligira is largely attributed to malpractices in the recruitment of staff for health facilities nationwide where nepotism and corruption were suspected, according to ministry officials.
Mr Namahungu and seven of the sacked officials, who include a biomedical equipment engineer, a construction engineer and procurement officers, have already been charged with illegal tendering, in which public resources were lost.
The EastAfrican has learnt that the eight are facing charges for flouting procurement guidelines including forgery of documents, issuing illegal public tenders and embezzlement.
“The ministry had already fired some of them over professional malpractices. We don’t have much to comment after the decision by the Cabinet except to tell you that it’s appropriate,” said Fulgence Kamali, a communications official at RBC.
Medical equipment and infrastructure receive a huge budgetary allocation but flouted tender procedures have denied the government value for taxpayers’ money.
According audit reports, RBC is cited as having procured medical equipment such as incubators, CT scan, foetal monitors, and laboratory equipment that is not being utilised by hospitals.
The Auditor-General’s reports of 2016 and 2017 show such equipment worth millions of dollars procured and distributed to hospitals and health centres lay idle.
The Auditor General said this was as a result of the mismatch between the needs of health facilities and equipment procured. In other instances, the procured equipment lacked spare parts or were never requested by the health facilities, hence ended up not serving any use.
The Ministry of Health and its organs including RBC, were among the 13 public institutions the Auditor-General said failed to follow through on 109 contracts and implementation of projects, costing the government some $233 million, either in delays or abandoned projects.
Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) spokesperson Modeste Mbabazi confirmed some of the sacked employees had been investigated and the files handed to the prosecutor.
Last month, RBC procurement officials were arraigned to answer charges of flouting tender procedures. The case is still ongoing.
However, there have been concerns that the “big fish” often get away with corruption while low ranking officials are sacrificed in the crackdown on graft.