Despite facing several administrative and ownership challenges, Umurenge SACCO, a government initiated microfinance programme at the local administrative level, managed to amass over Rwf10bn by the end of the first quarter of 2011.
Appearing before the Senate yesterday, the Minister of Finance, John Rwangombwa, said that the deposits and membership was impressive despite the challenges.
Rwangombwa was appearing before the house to respond to the findings of a Senatorial committee which indicated that the microfinance programme is ridden with challenges mainly of ownership, infrastructure, audit and human resource.
The report compiled by the committee on Economic Development and Finance chaired by Senator Speciose Ayinkamiye highlighted several challenges Umurenge Sacco is facing which prompted the house to summon the minister to explain.
He told the house that while the findings of the committee are genuine, considerable success has been registered surpassing even the targets the government had set for the first three years of implementation.
Rwangombwa said that when the government initiated the programme, it had limited funds to start a fully fledged microfinance programme and instead opted to provide the minimum start up support it could afford and the rest be done by the people.
“I am not disputing contents of the report, I am sure this will help us improve further Umurenge Sacco. We are aware of these challenges and the government has put in place mechanisms to deal with them,” Rwangombwa said.
Rwangombwa said that the issue of ownership of the programme was brought about by a misconception that Umurenge Sacco was a government owned programme yet it is meant to be owned by the people themselves.
The Minister further said that some local leaders failed to sensitise people to the extent that it was thought that the Saccos had come to compete with other microfinance institutions and cooperatives, which wasn’t the case.
Rwangombwa said that the programme started from scratch with no equipment, infrastructure or staff. It therefore decided to begin with the most possible means and equipment available, which meant that the Saccos were facing shortages on all fronts.
He however said that despite the problems, the programme kicked off and the progress is promising with already registered members exceeding 1,155,000.
Of the members, 859,485 have deposits while 596,150 have already opened accounts according to Rwangombwa.
The Minister said that the government had set a target of Rwf10bn of deposits at least for the initial 3 years but the target has been exceeded in a period of just one year and a few months, which is a positive trend.
Rwangombwa told the house that the government decided to take a risk by increasing the establishment of Saccos from only 30 sectors for the pilot project to all 415 Sectors across the country after realising their importance.
He said that the government has embarked on a sensitisation programme to make the people own the programme while 60 people have been recruited to monitor and audit Saccos.
Over Rwf 1.7bn has been invested in the establishment of Umurenge Saccos and according to Rwangombwa, the government has allocated Rwf2.7bn in the 2011/2012 budget to continue with the process.
Senators called on the government to ensure that the challenges facing Saccos are addressed in order to achieve the desired goals.