ATMs break down as fire guts SIMTEL

KIGALI - David, 28, a Kigali businessman has been using an ATM card for a number of years. Over the weekend, when his car broke down, he needed to urgently withdraw money to get his car back on the road.
There is a complete breakdown of all ATM machines all over the country. (Photo; J.Mbanda)
There is a complete breakdown of all ATM machines all over the country. (Photo; J.Mbanda)

KIGALI - David, 28, a Kigali businessman has been using an ATM card for a number of years. Over the weekend, when his car broke down, he needed to urgently withdraw money to get his car back on the road.

He approached the nearest ATM, machine but failed to access his money. He tried other machines, but all in vain. He decided to go to his bank since he urgently needed the money.

“It took me over two hours to withdraw money from my account since the queue was extremely long,” he said.

David, is one of the many ATM users who have been frustrated by the breakdown of  the bank machines. About a week ago, fire gutted the servers of SIMTEL, the sole operator of the Rwandan switch for inter-bank Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) services, leading to a general breakdown of all the ATM outlets all over the country.

Although there has not been an official communication on what happened exactly, the breakdown has since affected all banks connected to the SIMTEL switch, while several ATM users have had to queue up at their respective banks to access their accounts.

According to Isaiah Chindumba, the COO of Rwanda Commercial Bank, BCR, a big number of their clients have since used the bank tellers.

“There is congestion at the banks but we are containing the situation,” he said.

Chindumba added that SIMTEL is yet to restore the situation and no there is no exact information on when the problem would be solved.

“SIMTEL has not communicated to us on the vastness of the problem,” he said.

Fina Bank’s Card Product Manager, Jean Paul Muramila, also said that many people were queuing up inside their bank branches and criticized SIMTEL for the way they have handled the problem.

“We are currently apologizing to our clients but there is a blame shift to SIMTEL and they should definitely come out with a press statement explaining and apologizing for the problem,” Muramila said.

There are fears SIMTEL didn’t have a data recovery system and backup in place.

According to Muramila, if there was a recovery system, the problem would have been rectified in a shorter period of time.

When reached for a comment, Sigrid Bruch, the CEO of SIMTEL remained adamant. “I am not in position to make any comment regarding that issue,” she said.

Previously, banks have requested the Central Bank to allow them operate individual ATMs but they have been compelled by the law to only use the central switch by SIMTEL.

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