Trade minister questioned over idle Rwf3bn cassava processing machine

Minister Soraya Hakuziyaremye. Courtesy.

Machinery worth $ 4.02 million (Rwf3.7 billion) meant to process cassava has been lying idle for over three years and Parliamentarians are now seeking for answers from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

On Wednesday las week, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, appeared before parliament to respond to 23 written questions raised in February by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock, and Environment.

 Among the questions raised included why Tapioca Starch Processing Company (TASCO) in Bugesera District was lying idle despite hefty investments. 

The Minister explained that while the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning bought the machines, there was no building to house the plant.

Since 2015, the machines have been kept in a private warehouse and the government foots rent expenses.

“The project was meant to add value to cassava harvest. It was the initiative of the ministry of agriculture. The ministry of agriculture carried out a project plan in 2013, the ministry of finance issued a tender and bought those machines in 2015 by a South Korean firm. Still, there was no house for the industry,” she stated.

She added; “We kept searching for investors to build that industry but in vain. We shall also assess whether the machines can still work and to keep on searching for an investor to build the industry.”

Alternatively, she said, government could auction the machines.

We have three months to decide where to put those machines and to know if that project still needs an investor, added the Minister.

 MPs wondered how the ministry of finance and economic planning decided to buy the machines without a building and strongly suggested a follow-up on making sure that the people caused the loss provide are held to account.

MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa said that; “I wonder how people can buy such expensive machines before they know where to put them. What do you do in such situations? Who are responsible? Will you let the government make loses just like that?”

She added that although the minister of trade gave MPs the background to the issue, there was no clear answer to that problem.

 MP Diogène Bitunguramye, called for a thorough investigations into the issue and follow-up to establish all the people who are responsible and make sure that they are punished according to the law.

The minister said that an internal audit had been commissioned to evaluate dysfunctional industries.

She disclosed that the audit, which commenced in March this year will culminate into a report in September which will show all issues in the industry sector and inform government’s course of action. 

The New Times has established that TASCO was expected to produce 100 metric tons of cassava starch per day to be used in the textile and cosmetics industries among others.