The Rwanda Parliament has approved a decision to task the Ministry of Finance to solve in four months, the long standing issues of members of the Bank Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) whose shares and interest on shares have not been made clear for years.
Since its establishment in 1975 as a cooperative bank, the financial institution opened many branches around the country. In 1986, the various autonomous Banques Populaires formed an umbrella called the Union des Banques Populaires du Rwanda (UBPR).
The parliamentary resolution comes after years of members of BPR complaining about not knowing the fate of their shares and interests earned following the bank’s streak of selling its ownership three times.
Before becoming a commercial bank (in 2008), BPR’s clients would be considered as members and by the fact of opening an account (with at least Rwf7, 000 charged in the 1990s and Rwf15, 000 as of 2003).
The institution has however been sold thrice with the first sell off made to Labobank in 2018, to Atlas Mara in 2016 and recently in 2021 to Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB).
During the process of selling its shares, the bank managed to raise investment capital from Rwf30billion to now Rwf81.4billion. However the stakes of initial shareholders (members) kept dropping along the way and thus complaints of lack of knowledge of their share status.
For instance, BPR sold off 35% of its member shares to Labobank- aDutch cooperative banking conglomerate, and to Atlas Mara at 62.06% while with KCB it sold shares amounting to 87.5%.
In this process of selling off shares, BPR members reported to parliament’s economic committee that they don’t know how much shares and how much interest on shares they own till to date.
For example, out of the 290,281 members with BPR accounts counted in 2009 only 163,175 members had been recorded in the shares database while 127,116 of them remained in the dark- not knowing any update on the sell off and their shares because they have not been recorded in BPR essential share personal database.
The chairman parliamentary committee on economic affairs, Théogène Munyangeyo said the Ministry of Finance was consulted on the above concerns but it said that BPR members’ shares are intact.
They were given a deadline from April to October to register for claims of their shares or else the shares will be managed by the central bank as per the law.
This follows a fact that the bank had in 2009 conducted a membership census which managed to count and enter data of some members of the bank.
However, Munyangeyo said the big question that arose in their findings was if BPR had done enough to make this deadline and declaration known to its members and ease the process of access to information on how they should process needed paperwork.
“The commission found that there is no clear way to access information on their shares and interest on shares,” Munyangeyo said.
Thus the committee recommended that these issues be solved by the Ministry of Finance in the next four months.