By Eddie Nsabimana
The Gasabo Primary Court on Thursday began the hearing of former cabinet minister Daphrose Gahakwa, who denied charges of embezzlement that she faces.
A former minister in the education and agriculture dockets, Gahakwa is accusing of misuse of public resources during her time as head of Rwanda Agriculture Board.
She was in April 2018 dismissed from office by the Prime Minister, Dr Edouard Ngirente, alongside three other senior officials at the board after issues of wasteful spending and flawed procurement procedures were unearthed in the institution.
The four officials have been on suspension to give way for investigations.
Appearing before court on Thursday, prosecution pinned Gahakwa of fraudulently awarding a tender whereby, on June 8, 2016, she approved an Rwf800 million irrigation tender to his son-in-law, Dr Edouard Kamugisha.
According to prosecution, she signed this tender at time when the institution was struggling financially.
Meanwhile, Gahakwa’s husband, Pierre Rudakemwa Gahakwa, was among the lead consultants hired by Kamugisha to supervise the implementation of the irrigation project.
Gahakwa, who was arrested on October 2 and remains in custody, was in court together with her lawyer.
However, her lawyer, Johnson Kabera, told the court that his client had nothing to do with awarding the tender to her son-in-law, Kamugisha, saying that she was not the in charge of procurement.
He added that the tender was not directly awarded to Gahakwa’s son-in-law but rather, a joint venture of two contractors; Kamugisha’s company Benedetta Group and another one called A.I Engineering.
Besides, the lawyer added, Gahakwa was not the only signatory on the final document approving the tender, saying that there were other officials who had to look into it and check whether no fraudulent actions were committed.
The prosecutor wondered how Gahakwa denies that she did not know the tender was awarded to her son-in-law yet his name appeared on top of the tender contract which she signed.
She also denied having any role in the hiring process of her husband to supervise the implementation of the project.
Gahakwa is also accused of misusing public property when she diverted RAB’s irrigation machine to irrigate his farm located in Gashora Sector, Bugesera District.
The prosecutors said that they have a report showing that the irrigation machine, which was at Gahakwa’s farm since 2013, was only returned to RAB in 2017.
Gahakwa said that the machine was deployed to irrigate farmers’ crops in the area in which her farm is located and that she never requested anyone to take the machine to her farm.
She said she had her own machine to irrigate her mango plantation in Gashora.
She said the machine that the prosecution accuses her of embezzling was ‘damaged’ and ‘so old’.
Her lawyer requested that his client be released on bail because she is diabetic.
Following the submissions by both sides, the judge adjourned the hearing, saying that the court would pronounce itself on Gahakwa’s bail application on Tuesday, October 20, at 4pm.
Credit to New Times.