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Rwanda’s coop sector regulator pushes for specialised lawyers

KIGALI, February 29, 2024 – According to local news agencies, Rwanda Cooperative Agency [RCA] is pushing for specialised lawyers to improve the dispensation of justice for cooperatives, and members but the move would safeguard the country’s cooperative sector.

During a training session organised by RCA and other cooperative stakeholders in the country’s Eastern Province, various challenges curtailing the cooperative sector were raised and discussed by the participants.

The challenges identified include the existence of ghost cooperatives, mismanagement of resources, and the low involvement of the youth in cooperatives.

It was noted during the meeting that the young people have the potential to improve the sustainability of the cooperatives in the country but can also bring new and innovative ideas.

RCA’s Director General, Patrice Mugenzi talked of the negative impact of corruption on the cooperative sector, blaming it on inadequate financial management systems, limited leadership involvement, unjustified loans, and insufficient follow-ups by relevant authorities.

“The lack of accountability for financial crimes within cooperatives fosters a culture of impunity, endangering the cooperative movement. We advocate for specialised lawyers in cooperative law to handle these cases effectively, alongside improving coordination, partnerships, and accountability frameworks within the cooperative sector,” said Mugenzi.

Recent cases in the country demonstrate the severity of corruption and embezzlement. For instance, a cooperative leader in Gasetsa, Remera Sector, Ngoma district is alleged to have embezzled funds meant for his cooperative while efforts are ongoing to recover embezzled funds of a dairy farmers’ cooperative in Kayonza district, also Eastern Province.

An audit conducted by RCA and Eastern Province auditors uncovered embezzlement of funds amounting to over Rwf 200 million across various cooperatives in the region.

Vestine Uwamariya, who oversees business development and employment opportunities in Gatsibo district said cases of mismanagement usually begin during the formation of cooperatives themselves, and exacerbated by corruption during election of leaders.

Speaking of the challenge of ghost cooperatives in the country, Mugenzi underscored the importance of accuracy and transparency in cooperative operations. The RCA aims to identify and eliminate these non-existent cooperatives to streamline the sector effectively.

Eastern Province Governor, Pudence Rubingisa called for more efforts to bolster cooperative efficiency and collaboration with local authorities. He also called for proactive measures for early intervention and prevention of financial malpractices in the cooperatives.

Meanwhile, CODERVAM, a cooperative of rice farmers in Nyagatare district, emerged best performer in the country last year, earning Rwf 350 million, after suffering a Rwf 400mln deficit six years ago.

It was noted that while Nyagatare and other districts boast numerous cooperatives, they need scrutiny and oversight by relevant bodies.

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