Legislators fault Reb officials over students' loan defaulters

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has faulted Rwanda Education Board (Reb) over failure to identify defaulters of students' loan scheme. PAC expressed concerns yesterday during its first public hearing as it scrutinised the 2012-13 Auditor-General's report.
PAC chairperson Juvenal Nkusi (L) puts Rutayisire (R) to task over students’ loans yesterday. (John Mbanda)
PAC chairperson Juvenal Nkusi (L) puts Rutayisire (R) to task over students’ loans yesterday. (John Mbanda)

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has faulted Rwanda Education Board (Reb) over failure to identify defaulters of students’ loan scheme.

PAC expressed concerns yesterday during its first public hearing as it scrutinised the 2012-13 Auditor-General’s report.

“There are a lot of avoidable mistakes related to students’ loan scheme that Reb failed to correct. There is lack of a comprehensive database of those that have benefited from the academic loans, while those that paid are still listed as debtors, how do you justify that?” MP Théodomir Niyonsenga asked.

He also tasked Reb to explain why the available database covers only between 1995 to 2004.
Part of the AG’s report points to the 2008 incident where the Ministry of Education offered a four-year PhD sponsorship to one Helene Mugabekazi in Senegal that was due to close in August 2012, but she continued to receive funding.

“After expiry of the scholarship period, she went on receiving money from Reb worth Rwf7,314,240 from September 2012 to June 2013 without extension confirmation. I was not provided with the basis of that extra-payment,” the AG wrote.

During the hearing, Reb officials attempted to convince PAC on why some anomalies were captured by AG and what is being done to correct the mistakes.

“For the first time, the new entrants in universities on government scholarship are entered in the database, meaning we will not have a problem again,” said Reb Director-General John Rutayisire.

“Initially, we made a list of those who studied on government scholarship dating back to 1980 but most of those on the list are untraceable.”

Rutayisire said part of the mechanism is working with the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) to assist in the recovery of the bursary money.

Conflicting response

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Rwanda Education Board Director-General John Rutayisire explains anomalies in accounting records to members of the parlimantary Public Accounts Committee in Parliament yesterday. (John Mbanda)

However, Rutasisire’s response to PAC contradicted that of his deputy in charge of Higher Education Students Loan Department, Louise Karamage, who said CRB’s format is built in a way that you can only trace someone who has a new national identity card.

“We went to the National Identification Agency’s office with a list of 64,000 people who owe us money. We only identified 9,000; the rest are probably out of the country, died or have changed names,” said Karamage.

This prompted PAC members to question the officials if indeed they failed to trace those who defaulted and also come up with a clear amount to be written off.

“Why don’t you give this issue a priority; you don’t need to hire foreign consultants to do this job, use the fresh graduates, deploy them and they will get you this information,” said PAC deputy chairperson Theoneste Karenzi.

According to the AG report, included in the financial statements is a balance of Rwf3,037,925,439 for receivables from students’ loan beneficiaries.

However, it noted that Reb does not have a detailed list of all loan beneficiaries and their outstanding balances to support the reported balance of debtors as at June 30, 2013.

Management reportedly explained that a FileMaker database used to record the details of loan beneficiaries of high learning institutions from 1995 to 2004 was no longer functional because it was overloaded.

The system did not have data on loan beneficiaries before 1995 and after 2004.

Meanwhile, PAC raised concerns about money paid to mentors who are no longer in service under the English Language School-based Mentoring Programme and recruited School-based Mentors.

MPs observed that a total of Rwf25 million was paid to mentors who had left since July 2012 up to February 2014.

After getting unconvincing response, MP Karenzi handed Rutayisire a document that detailed PAC’s queries and asked him to respond to it, showing a time frame of when each concern would be addressed.

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