15 August 2012

Rwanda: Bank Populaire Denies Hiking Cattle Stocking Bills

Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) has dismissed findings by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources which concluded that the cattle the bank distributed under the Gir'inka cattle stocking programme were overvalued.

The report by the ministry says there were many irregularities in the programme.

Since 2007, 3,590 farmers received cows under the scheme, of which 795 got them at inflated prices.

The ministry's inquiry indicates that the beneficiaries were swindled approximately Rwf 146 million and yet it wants farmers to repay the loans based on the type of the cows they received and their actual market values.

But speaking to The New Times on the weekend, Joseph Ntambara, in charge of recovery at BPR, said his bank did not overvalue the cows as the report claims, but offered loans to individual farmers depending on the loan contract and the amount of money which each client had indicated.

Responding to the report now months after the findings raises more questions.

But Ntambara vowed his bank would conduct its own investigations into.

"BPR is not in the business of selling cows to farmers because we don't have the expertise in this area. It was the districts and farmers themselves that requested us to provide Gir'inka loans but we will soon know who pays the difference that was cited in the ministry's report," Ntambara said.

According to Ntambara, it's districts that hired entrepreneurs to buy the cows and then distribute them to the beneficiaries. Some farmers, however, directly received loans from the bank to buy the cows.

Under the programme, BPR provided loans to farmers through districts, which were charged with the responsibility of contracting entrepreneurs to buy the cows on behalf of the beneficiaries.

After purchasing the cows, entrepreneurs would then supply them to districts for distribution to farmers.

Ntambara noted that the Gir'inka programme is still ongoing but stressed that a memorandum of understanding has now been signed between the bank and the beneficiaries of the programme.

For a person now to acquire a Gir'inka loan, he said, they must first present a veterinary's letter to the bank which indicates the health status of the cow. And currently BPR no longer allows an entrepreneur to buy cows on behalf of the farmers.

Launched in 2007, the cattle-stocking initiative was aimed at ensuring that at least each poor household owns a cow.

In an interview with The New Times on Sunday, Dr. Theogene Rutagwenda, the Director General of Animal Resources in the ministry, said after identifying the irregularities, they sent a copy of the ministry's findings to BPR for them to respond to the findings.

"The ministry has so far held several meetings with officials from BPR to discuss the irregularities that were found in the bank's Gir'inka programme. I believe both parties will soon come up with a final solution to these irregularities," Dr Rutagwenda said.

He added the report indicates how much money each farmer was given and when he or she received it, adding that they expected to work out a way forward before the end of this week.

"The ministry is planning to have a meeting with BPR before the end of this week, and I am optimistic we will address this issue because it's long overdue," Dr Rutagwenda said.

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