While government officials dither, Rwandans remain the losers

Scenic Kinyinya is one of the fastest growing Kigali suburbs.

Scenic Kinyinya is one of the fastest growing Kigali suburbs.

The Rwandan Dream is one that all of us are fighting, tooth and nail, to achieve. The ‘Dream’, as I understand it, consists of owning a house outright, a farm in the village, putting your children in good schools, having a well-paid job (or owning a business) and having some money put away for retirement. Personally, I’ve hit some benchmarks while the others will come eventually I hope. The one I am working on presently is the home issue, or to be exact, the plot issue.

A few years back I collected a bit of money and bought a small plot in Kinyinya Sector in Gasabo District. The error I made, and one that I’m sure many young prospective landowners will similarly make, is not to know exactly what documentation I needed to make the piece of land mine.

I thought it was simply a matter of agreeing a price, signing a contract of sale, getting the contract notified by a local leader and then getting the land title from the national land office. I quickly learnt I was sadly mistaken.

Not only was it a far longer process than I could have imagined, to make matters worse the elderly lady I bought the land from misplaced the temporary proof of ownership which was small, white piece of paper.

To get a new one, I needed to go the Remera police station and get a ‘Déclaration de Perte’ (to prove that she’d reported its loss). I didn’t know I had to get her passport photo first though. So I did that. After driving around, elderly lady in tow, we went to the Gasabo District to hand in the documentation i.e. the sale of land contract, signed by witnesses and stamped by the head of the Umudugudu.

It was there that I found that we needed ANOTHER document, her marriage certificate (or her certificate of widowhood). Sadly for me, she didn’t have one and would need to go back to her village to get one; mind you her village was a two hours drive away so its not like I could help her get it. I would have to wait. And I’ve been waiting for the last two years.

Sure I went to school for a year but losing so much time, and man-hours, because of a single document is just wrong. Something is fundamentally wrong and needs to be fixed. There needs to be a more efficient way of doing things.

Thankfully, there is a platform that has the ability to make things better; it is called the Irembo platform. Irembo, a public service platform run aims to, according to the Ministry of Youth and ICT, “exclusively offer Government to Business (G2B) and Government to Citizen (G2C) services in the country, accessible via internet and mobile devices”.

Among ten services that Irembo is supposed to offer are: passport application, registration for theory driving test, trading license, building permit application, registration for practical driving license test, criminal record certificate application, visa permits, land subdivision service, birth certificate application service

The tenth service that Irembo platform is supposed to offer, and the one that I’m particularly interested in, is the one that will streamline the land transfer procedure.

Working in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), RwandaOnline (a public-private partnership between the Government of Rwanda and a Singaporean investor that runs Irembo) developed a land transfer system that utilised both the Internet and SMS networks to make a land transfer something that takes days not months or years.

Sadly this platform is gathering dust because no one is taking ownership for the project. RwandaOnline developed the programme, RDB provided technical support but as of today, the issue is that between RDB and RNRA, they’ve failed to agree on who will run the day-to-day operations of the land transfer system (and therefore recruit and pay the salaries of the computer experts that will monitor the system 24/7).

I find this frustrating and extremely problematic. How is it possible for such an important programme that will help Rwandans develop be held back because of an argument about who will pay for the labour? I mean, what are we losing as we wait?

Personally, I’m losing time and money. I’m sure that many other Rwandans agree with me. It gets only worse.

At the national level, Rwanda risks losing money we cannot afford due to a clause in the contract that was signed between the Government and RwandaOnline mandating a punitive amount of $8,000 a day if the managing authority doesn’t take ownership of a platforms that have gone ‘live’ in Phase 1. The clause will punish RwandaOnline as well if delays come from their side.

While the government officials I spoke to pooh-poohed my worries, saying that there was nothing to worry about, it wouldn’t be the first time that Government has been punished for breach of contract.

Presently, only five have gone live (registration for theory driving test, registration for practical driving test, birth certificate application service, trading license application and criminal record certificate application) so I’m not saying that fixing the land transfer issue between RDB and RNRA will stop us hemorrhaging foreign exchange that we desperately need. The five others services need to utilised.

What the heads of the institutions, that the Irembo platform aims to streamline, ought to do is simply get things DONE! It’s not impossible; if it weren’t possible none of the Irembo services would have gone public but some have.

When President Kagame spoke about malnutrition while launching the recent Poverty Profile Report, he called it something “self-inflicted”. Well, the money and time we are losing because we are not using Irembo the way we were supposed to is something that I think is self-inflicted.

This simply must stop.

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2 thoughts on “While government officials dither, Rwandans remain the losers

  1. You have hammered the nail on the head Sunny. Not only do you find the frustration at Irembo but practically in all aspects of public and sometimes private sector. The bank teller who’ll not use logic logic say to process your traffic offence fine, but you go to another branch of the same bank and your fine is processed by a more experienced teller. The public notary in one sector of a district who’ll not endorse your wife’s document because on her Burundian ID there is only her year of birth and the notary wants the whole date on it, but the notary in another sector finds no problem with her ID. And many many such little but frustrating incidents that when they are accumulative they can drive one to the verge of madness.

    There is a common pattern. People abhor taking charge! They rather the customer suffers than them taking bold decisions that would potentially invite questioning from a more senior official or worse a sacking and/or imprisonment. And this common pattern can be stamped out through training and through a good employmee recruitment policy where self confidence is among the criteria that is most valued on one’s resume.

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