Investigations by the National Bank of Rwanda have uncovered cases of fraud at the Umurenge savings and cooperative associations (SACCOs), a senior official at the bank has said.
The disclosure was made early last week during a meeting in Kigali that brought together the Ministry of Trade and Industry officials, bankers and several district officials from Kigali city.
Umurenge SACCO is a government of Rwanda initiative as elaborated in the Vision 2020 development agenda that aims to increase access to financial services by citizens.
The concept of Umurenge SACCO was initiated owing to the concentration of banks and other financial institutions in towns with minimal presence in rural areas.
The Vice Governor of the central bank, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, said that their investigations had cited instances of board members of the saccos granting themselves loans or recovering the same from borrowers without making any records.
"The result is that the money is sometimes stolen while the client is pursued," said Nsanzabaganwa.
Nsanzabaganwa further stated that some managers often steal money from the saccos' safes and surprisingly still maintain their positions.
The central bank investigation further noted that some unscrupulous officials at the saccos use deposits to rent office space, which Nsanzabaganwa denounced as unacceptable.
She said that saccos should instead lease or request for office space from their respective districts until they are in a situation to afford their houses. She added that saccos did not have a deadline to hire or put up their premises warning that it was uncalled-for to utilise clients' deposits.
The senior official said that in case it was urgent for them to hire or build their own premises, they ought to look for their own money.
Nsanzabaganwa also criticised local leaders for interfering with the management of Saccos. However, the mayors present pointed out that they had unwillingly been sucked into issues of the functioning of the Saccos, and called for clear guidelines.
The vice mayor in charge of Economic Planning in Kicukiro District, Angélique Mukunde, stated that it was not clear what the delimits of the Rwanda Cooperative Authority were.
The ration of non performing loan portfolio of the Umurenge Saccos in Kigali currently stands at 3.20 per cent with Gasabo District currently the highest with a ratio of 3.70 per cent.
The countrywide ratio stands at a lowly 2.80 per cent. But the vice central bank Governor warns that it requires the attention of all stakeholders as the ration may increase in future.
Nsanzabaganwa, however, assured those present that the central bank was in control of the situation, adding that they plan to offer training to Umurenge Sacco managers with plans to computerise all branches countrywide within two years.