The Government is investigating cases in which Rwf987 million was stolen from cooperatives over the last two years, a top official at Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) has revealed.
According to the agency, non-financial cooperatives in the country have a combined share capital of Rwf82 billion. Local cooperatives are also being investigated for mismanagement.
Unlike SACCOs, non-financial cooperatives do not provide financial services.
Jean Bosco Harelimana, the Director General of RCA, said that the agency is working with Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) to bring to account leaders and members of different cooperatives who have misused peoples’ funds.
He said that about Rwf205 million was stolen from Ferwacotamo alone – a federation for commercial motorcyclists which groups together some 180 cooperatives.
“We addressed the list to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau because we know most of those people and we would like to pursue them. The financial and material resources of cooperatives are well protected,” he said.
He added that this is a big issue that they can’t let go of as it is among a few things that have for long discouraged many people from joining cooperatives.
In some instances, Harelimana explained, some people open cooperatives and run them as their personal businesses, making it harder for other members to socially and economically thrive.
When contacted, the chairperson of the board of the federation, Daniel Ngarambe, said they are aware of the allegations but he didn’t go into details, only saying that it was beyond their authority to get involved in the investigation process.
“RCA audited our federation and we are aware that there are primary cooperatives and unions under our federation suspected to have misused resources of their members,” he said, without mentioning which cooperatives.
Last week, cabinet approved a new national policy on cooperatives, which seeks to change the organisational and institutional structure of cooperatives, and potentially address the inefficiencies that have characterised coops for long.
“The new policy will help us establish well-organised structures in primary cooperatives. Under this policy, we would also like to work hand in hand with local government to meet performance contracts because cooperatives must contribute to the socio-economic development of the country,” Harelimana stated.
The policy is also expected to usher in a new era of reforms, including reducing the amount of time it takes to register a cooperative as well as automation of the operations of all cooperatives.
It takes 30 days to register a cooperative, Harelimana says, and now with the new policy, it will take about six hours on account of RCA’s new technology-based system that will ease registration of new cooperatives.
The new policy will also see RCA set up new departments, including capacity building and online registration, among others.
The idea, he said, is to generally allow cooperatives to have profit-centred members.
According to the official, the previous policy was focused primarily on promoting cooperatives movement in Rwanda while the new policy now focuses on the development and management of cooperatives.
“The focus of the 2007 policy is different from this one. We would like to see those structures already well managed and governed,” he said.
The new policy would also enable the country to tap into the potential of the Diaspora by easily allowing the entry of cooperatives created by Rwandans living abroad. This will contribute to the resource mobilisation for investment in the country.
There are currently about 9,000 cooperatives across the country.