Rwanda: PAC grills RAB over stalled multibillion irrigation project

Mamos Media

By Emmanuel Ntirenganya

Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have concurred that seeds that were sold as commodity for consumption because they had exceeded germination period implies that there is no value for money as seeds are more expensive than ordinary commodities.

They also pointed to a $120 million (over Rwf100 billion) project that intended to irrigate crops on 7,000 hectares in Kirehe District, Eastern Province which delayed for seven months compared to its completion deadline, according to the Auditor General’s report.

Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) said that the project was delayed partly as a result of conditions imposed by the lender – Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank) of India.

They were speaking on Monday, September 14, 2020 during a virtual public hearing in which oral explanations of RAB’s officials on mismanagement cases were identified while PAC was scrutinising the Auditor General’s report of the year 2018/2019.

PAC expressed concern that RAB incurred a loss of Rwf128 million on seeds that were sold at lower price compared to their cost after being unable to germinate as they were kept for long in RAB’s stores.

RAB also supplied maize seeds worth Rwf474 million to the National Strategic Grain Reserve four and a half years ago so that they are used for consumption, but, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources which is the custodian of the Reserve has not yet paid RAB for such seeds.

Responding to the issues, Patrick Karangwa, RAB Director-General said that the problem resulted from a technology shift as farmers preferred hybrid seeds which are more profitable than open-pollinated variety (OPV) seeds.

“Generally, farmers lost interest in open-pollinated varieties as they adopted hybrid maize seeds that are three times more productive.

“Some seeds have been in RAB’s stores since 2014. They were later provided for consumption to save the people who were affected by drought as it was the only option, instead of letting them rot,” Karangwa said.

He said that RAB has made an exchange with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources so that it makes payment for such seeds.

PAC told RAB that it has to develop a seed policy and plan that indicates clearly the amount of seeds that are needed by farmers and how to effectively handle seeds in order to prevent unnecessary losses or wasteful expenditures.

“We know that there are farmers who lack seeds. It is a loss that some seeds remain in RAB’s stocks to the point of losing quality,” said MP Uwimanimpaye Jeanne d’Arc.

MP Beline Uwineza wondered what RAB bases on to import, produce or multiply seeds if some end up being deteriorated in stores, pointing out that there is a need to respond to farmers’ seed needs.

Demanding loan partly blamed for irrigation project delay

Karangwa said the $120 million irrigation project in Kirehe District delayed partly faced problems including the way it was negotiated as it required that 75 percent of the equipment or tools that the project needs have to come from India, while the remaining 25 percent would be sourced elsewhere.

“You realised that it was complicated to meet such a condition because importing from India sand and cement to build a water dam that would help in crops irrigation is a challenge,” he said.

“So, we were hindered by the fact that we wanted negotiations in order to lower such a rate to at least 65 percent of equipment that should come from India,” he said.

Another issue, he said, is that some equipment, such as iron bars, which was imported from China were rejected by the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) as they did not meet the required standards, which also hindered the project progress.

He added that there was a concern about the clarity on which imported pieces of equipment to be used in the project were exempted from tax, pointing out that it took months to decide.

He said that even the companies to implement the project should come from India, but added that “there was a concern that some of Indian companies were blacklisted over poor performance.”

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