Access to information in MFIs, headache to Journalists

A Study conducted by TOPAFRICANEWS has shown that most of the news articles published in media about services, performances of the banking Sector especially Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are coverage of meetings or Press releases announcing an annual profits or New Services as part of marketing strategies.

However media are criticized for not reporting investigative stories about financial sector despite public concerns about malpractices, disrespect of customer rights, etc.., in financial sector as well as in some other money Exchange institutions.

Media practitioners who spoke to this website said that it is not the inability of the journalists to do in depth financial reporting, but assume that it is due to difficulties encountered when collecting financial data, or due to the Media Organ whose editorial lines do not guarantee the Journalists freedom of reporting his/her investigation results to avoid creating collision between the media organization with a financial institution whose partnership with this organ of the media is the source of its (Media) financial stability.

During the study TOPAFRICANEWS found that in most of MFIs visited there is unfriendly relationship between Media and the organizations management.

While Surveying the MFIs, the Main Objective of this Website was to find out how Microfinance Institutions provide information to clients whether the clients get additional education services rather than that set of campaigns which mainly focus on luring more clients into buying their services etc…

Statistics show that Rwanda has over 470 Microfinance Institutions which include Credits and Savings Cooperatives commonly known as SACCO(s), Microfinance LTD Companies and Banks, Cooperatives among others.

The Microfinance sector contributes at least 60% to the country’s economic growth.

After visiting various MFIs most of them have Headquarters in Kigali Capital of Rwanda, we noticed that there are gaps in information sharing among the MFIs.

The findings showed a big number of clients seeking services in Microfinance Institutions most of them use Institutional Sub-Branch scattered around the city of Kigali.

 

Though clients highlighted the limited knowledge about other services of the banks rather than Credits and Savings, for Journalists too in order to have access to even simple information you need to write the request letter followed by the Interview Questions and when the questions are not attracting the interests of the Financial Institution in hand “Don’t expect” to get an appointment.

“What you have to expect is “Apologies” like the respondent is not around, once Available we will call you back. Kindly leave us your Phone number,” Mathias Hitimana, a local Journalist told this website

However, “When it is a crisis just happens here, I can give you the answer regarding that crisis because I am the one assigned to this area representing my institution.” One respondent from Interdiocesain Microfinance Network, a Sub-Branch which is located in Gasabo told our reporter.

This answer highlighted the kind of information MFIs are willing to provide only in case they are facing financial crises which is considered one way communication hindering customers to get enough information about the banking services.

What Journalists already know

In the banking industry media coverage has the additional potential for generating distrust in financial institutions, public fears over the safety of deposits and investments, and runs on banks that can lead to a bank’s default and even wider reactions of ‘panic’ involving multiple banks.

Consequently public relations activities of financial institutions concentrate on solidifying reputations and promoting images of stability and community involvement

Much of press relations activities of companies in this century are not concerned with generating good press, however, but are intending on keeping negative or derogatory information out of the media or influencing how it was presented.

Even today, many business executives argue that the media concentrate on bad news and that business reporting is overwhelmingly negative, usually basing their opinions solely on anecdotal evidence.

“Are Journalists always reporting bad news against Financial Sector? Why do Financial Institutions fear Media People as if they are not stakeholders in their businesses? What could be the results if a media lied about the Financial Companies performances and later it comes to Public that the reports were totally lies? The answer is that both Media and Financial institutions will fail on credibility and public trust,” Kayiranga Justin, another Journalist operating in Rwanda told this website.

How hard is getting information from MFIs in Rwanda

Nshuti Joseph, a Client of SACCO in Kigali said “What I really know about the services is related to credit and Savings. I don’t know the interest rate of the banking services.”

“Let’s use the example of BDF loans, they told us that the BDF supports 50% of the total loan you are requesting and other 50% by SACCOs. In reality we don’t know how this is done. We hear that information in winds; they can’t explain what procedures to follow…” He adds

Nshuti also explained that he had no information about his data privacy in SACCO. “That’s one is big, I don’t know even what privacy are you talking about,” Nshuti said.

The Law N° 04/2013 of 08/02/2013 relating to Access to Information in the Chapter II on Right to Information in its Article 3 stipulates that every person has the right of access to information in possession of a public organ and some private bodies.

In an Interview with this Website, Ibambe Jean Paul, the Legal officer in Rwanda Media Commission said “Of course the Micro-finance institutions have that obligation of providing information especially when it is in the Public interests.”

The  right  of  access  to  information  includes  assessing activities, documents or records; taking notes, documents, extracts or copies of official documents or records; taking documents or extracts of notified copies; obtaining information stored in any electronic form or through print-outs copies of information deposited in a computer or in any other device.

Felibien Hirwa Tuza, in charge of the Public Relations and Communications at AMIR said “We will continue sensitizing our member institutions on access to information law.”

“AMIR is an Association and its members are autonomous institutions which are supposed to have in place policies and strategies related to their operations including communications.” Tuza explained

He noted that “Currently many businesses in this World are being done digitally. We are in the Digital era, bureaucracy and analogue are two things that should be discouraged in this millennium.”

Commenting on Media relations and Microfinance Institutions, Hirwa highlighted that “Those institutions should develop the culture of communicating effectively” adding that “If they collaborate perfectly with Media in turn they earn Good reputations while at the same time help in educating public.”

“Among AMIR’s values, Transparency is one of them. You can’t be transparent when you don’t work with Media,”Hirwa said.

MFIs Clients should know how their data are protected

In an Interview with Nshuti Joseph, a Client of SACCO in Kigali said “What I really know about the services is related to credit and Savings. I don’t know if I even get interests on which basis.”

“Let’s use the example of BDF loans, they told us that the BDF supports 50% of the total loan you are requesting and other 50% by SACCOs. In reality we don’t know how this is done. We hear those information in winds, they can’t explain what procedures to follow…” He adds adding that had no information about his data privacy. “That’s one is big, I don’t know event what privacy are you talking about,” Nshuti said.

The Law N° 04/2013 of 08/02/2013 relating to Access to Information in the Chapter II on Right to Information in its Article 3 stipulates that every person has the right of access to information in possession of a public organ and some private bodies.

In an Interview with this Website, Ibambe Jean Paul, the Legal officer in Rwanda Media Commission said “Of course the Micro-finance institutions have that obligation of providing information especially when it is in the Public interests.”

The  right  of  access  to  information  includes  assessing activities, documents or records; taking notes, documents, extracts or copies of official documents or records; taking documents or extracts of notified copies; obtaining information stored in any electronic form or through print-outs copies of information deposited in a computer or in any other device.

Felibien Hirwa Tuza, in charge of the Public Relations and Communications at AMIR said “We will continue sensitizing our member institutions on access to information law.”

“AMIR is an Association and its members are autonomous institutions which are supposed to have in place policies and strategies related to their operations including communications.” Tuza explained

He noted that “Currently many businesses in this World are being done digitally. We are in the Digital era, bureaucracy and analogue are two things that should be discouraged in this millennium.”

Commenting on Media relations and Microfinance Institutions, Hirwa highlighted that “Those institutions should develop the culture of communicating effectively” adding that “If the collaborate perfectly with Media in turn they earn Good reputations while at the same time help in educating public.”

“Among AMIR’s values, Transparency is one of them. You can’t be transparent when you don’t work with Media, ”Hirwa said.

AMIR moves to enforce Clients Protection in MFIs

Recently the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR) has launched a public awareness campaign on client protection in Rwanda, as a strategic approach to streamline the application of client protection principles in the Rwanda Microfinance Sector.

This awareness is intended to create awareness among the clients of Microfinance institutions especially by helping them to understand their rights.

Currently the Rwandan Microfinance Sector counts for 470 Microfinance institutions across the country.

These financial institutions have been operating for quite a number of years, serving low income clients who cannot afford formal financial services in commercial banks.

According to the statistics from the National Bank of Rwanda, Microfinance institutions serve more than 3.4 million of Rwandan population.

These institutions are mandated to contribute in eradicating poverty by serving and providing quality financial services to their clients by allowing them to sustainably build healthy household economies.

The Government of Rwanda and its development partners have played a key role in establishing conducive environment for both, the clients and the financial service providers to attain equitably their social and business objectives.

The financial service providers have so far played their role in maintaining the already established environment where by, complying with the Client Protection Principles is one of the main priorities in order to ensure total client satisfaction.

AMIR is currently leading the Responsible Finance through Local Leadership and Learning Program (RFL3).

The program’s goal is to scale up the application of Consumer Protection Principles for low income financial service customers.

Straton Habyalimana, the Senior Programs Manager of the Responsible Finance through Local Leadership and Learning (RFL3) program

Consumer Protection Principles are designed to allow customers to derive greater economic benefits from financial services while promoting trust and transparency in the sector.

To achieve the RFL3 objectives, AMIR recognizes the role of Media in acting as a bridge between the government, development partners and the people, between service providers and clients.

Most importantly, in the microfinance sector, media is a key player in information sharing of best practices and advocacy.

Also Read:

Microfinance Association, MHC train Media on Clients Protection Principles

 

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