Transparency International Boss Speaks About Rwanda’s Fight Against Corruption.

A Transparency International report last year ranked Rwanda the least corrupt country in Africa and was among the top 50 best performing countries in the world out of 177 surveyed. The New Times’ Eugene Kwibuka caught with Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of Transparency International, as she wrapped up her trip in the country on Tuesday.

Police officers, judicial staff and lawyers march against corruption of Friday last week. Timothy Kisambira

Below are the excerpts:

What have you found out on your visit to Rwanda?

The first thing that all countries need is rule of law, a judiciary that is professional and provides justice to all people as well as a professional police force that carries out independent investigations. The justice system in Rwanda in functional and there are also other institutions like the Office of the Ombudsman where people can report anything wrong.

There is also a law protecting whistle-blowers and a number of other laws. So, Rwanda’s legal framework, judiciary, and oversight institutions like the Auditor General are all functional and I think other countries need to emulate this.

What are the major legal and institutional gaps that most countries lack as far as fighting corruption is concerned?

Many countries do not have the institutions or have them but they are not strong or lack independence. It is important for the prosecutor and Ombudsman to be independent so that they can dispense justice professionally. Unfortunately, these are some of the things lacking in many countries around the world.

Transparency International Rwanda last year cited the police, decentralised entities and the judiciary as some of the most corrupt institutions in the country. What could be the cause of this?

Well, I think in many countries, the local traffic police is vulnerable to corruption even more than the police who investigate crime, for example. The other areas of vulnerability in any country are procurement and construction which happen a lot at the local level. So, I think all countries have to strengthen local governance because this is the level of government that people interact with daily. It’s about access to health, education, justice, water, and being able to get a licence without having to bribe. I think strengthening capacity and integrity at all levels of government is important but we need to pay more attention to the local levels in all countries.

What could be the most effective policy prescription when it comes to fighting corruption in these areas where people go to seek critical services?

There are many things that are important but one of them is to ensure that people hold public officials accountable. People need to know how money for healthcare, schools and roads etc is spent. The transparency of the flow of money all the way to the point of delivery is a very important aspect.

The other aspect is to ensure proper procurement procedures. And the third one is to ensure that local governance units perform their duties in such a way that services are rendered to people without request for bribes. For example, ensuring that there is no cash transfer between the service delivery person and the person receiving the service. There are a number of other prescriptions but these are the most important.

In your view, what has Rwanda done differently to end up with less corruption?

There is strong commitment at the top. There is zero tolerance for corruption right from the top down to the citizenry. As I said ealier, many countries have laws in place that are not implemented, and have regulations that are not enforced. The big issues are always about procurement, local government, transparency, enforcement, and implementation of laws and regulations.

So, Rwanda has that political will from the top to do these things?

That’s what is perceived. That zero tolerance to corruption has been promoted is very important in any country. This might be rather interesting but I would like to hear your thoughts.

For the rest of the interview go to