Rwf5 billion of the estimated Rwf10 billion that was lost, stolen or misappropriated from Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) has so far been recovered, the Central Bank has confirmed.
The Rwf10 billion loss emerged during the 2018 National Dialogue Council and was attributed to mismanagement, misappropriation, defaulting on loans among other reasons.
A task force was set up consisting of the Ministries of Finance, Trade, Justice and Local Governments and law enforcement authorities.
Among the deliverables was to recover the monies lost, stolen or misappropriated.
As of September this year, Rwf5 billion had been recovered, according to the Director of Microfinance Supervision at the Central Bank, Kevin Kavugizo.
He said that the recovery process has been in two phases but also supplemented by other recovery efforts.
The first phase collected Rwf754 million and the second phase collected Rwf1.5 billion, other supplementary efforts drove up the amount recovered to Rwf5 billion.
The recoveries improved profits of Saccos as additional income while sending a clear message that defaulters will be followed up thereby preventing a further downgrade.
In the first half of 2019, consolidated profits of the Umurenge Saccos stood at Rwf2.9 billion.
Further efficiency in SACCOs is expected when automation of operations is complete.
Automating the operations of SACCOs was, among other things, expected to reduce related leakages and theft as well as ease operations, hence improving profitability for the cooperatives.
A combination of sustained loss of funds as well as deteriorating public trust in SACCOs is increasingly threatening the fortunes of these saving schemes.
The challenges can be traced back as far as 2015 when FinTech – a Kenyan firm, was contracted by the government to help automate Umurenge-SACCOs at the cost of $4.6 million (Rwf4 billion).
The firm was contracted to develop ICT-based system in computers, train the staff to use it and then connect the system in the yet-to-be-established cooperative bank connecting all the SACCOs, according to the terms of reference.
However, the firm was unable to deliver and their contract was terminated in 2018.
In March this year, the government opened a process to hire another a firm to carry out the exercise.
In March, Rwanda Cooperative Agency said that they had received expressions of interest from 19 firms upon which they had selected eight of them to make technical and financial offers.
The selected firm was to commence work in May this year with the process taking about one year. But the automation did not commence. However, the approach has since been amended with the pilot phase likely to commence at the end of this year.
The new approach involves government developing the solution with the intervention led by the Ministry of Finance and Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA).
By the end of the year, a pilot programme is expected to have been launched with the actual automation process beginning next year to bring on board all 416 Umurenge Saccos.
Automation will make the way for the establishment of a Cooperative Bank bringing together all the 416 Umurenge-SACCOs from across the country.
When complete, the new process will eliminate manual operations, reduce related leakages and theft as well as ease operations of these SACCOs that are based at all sectors.