Editorial: Place greater emphasis on accountability to minimise lawsuits against government

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Editorial: Place greater emphasis on accountability to minimise lawsuits against government
Editorial: Place greater emphasis on accountability to minimise lawsuits against government

Africa-PressRwanda. The Attorney-General last week yet again met with legal officers for public institutions during which issues of continued litigation against government and subsequent court defeats were discussed.

For a while now, the government has been incurring losses as a result of losing lawsuits related mostly to breach of contractual obligations, illegal employee dismissals, recruitment irregularities, among other related anomalies.

Billions of Rwandan Francs have indeed been paid to settle hundreds of lawsuits, with the taxpayer coughing up some Rwf1.5 billion between 2009 to June 2018 alone.

As many as 83 lawsuits involving 147 plaintiffs and 43 public institutions were adjudicated in courts between 2015 and 2017, with the government winning just 30 of them, representing 36 per cent.

The Public Service Commission reported that the government was forced to pay over Rwf200 million to settle litigations involving former civil servants between July 2015 and June 2017.

Now it has emerged that some public institutions actually wilfully encourage contractors or other aggrieved parties in contractual disputes to go to court as a way of covering up for their own mistakes and evade responsibility.

As part of efforts to curb this trend and cut losses associated with such litigations, the government says individual public institutions will now bear greater responsibility for the lost lawsuits – following recent enactment of a new law establishing the general statutes governing public servants.

Of course, anything that can prevent loss of taxpayers’ money is very welcome but the legal framework will hardly make any difference without a deliberate effort to enforce it and to ensure that individuals responsible for loss of public funds are held to account.

It is also important to note that, while it is true that the government has been losing most of these lawsuits at a rather huge financial cost, it has also struggled to recover the money it won in courts, recouping only a fraction of it.

This points to a deep-seated problem that needs a holistic approach if it is to be dealt with sufficiently.

One thing is certain; to ensure a drastic turnaround there is a need for unrelenting enforcement of the law with greater emphasis on individual responsibility and accountability.

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