Issa’s access to information request to Kamonyi district through sobanukirwa, demonstrates linkages between ATI and accountability.

Access to information is important not only in enhancing media effectiveness but also to promote good governance and accountability. A good indication of this is the latest article published by The New Times; ODESUDI is very happy to see media organizations taking advantage of its access to information website to carry out investigative journalism and commends The New Times to have taken an extra-step to carry out investigation on Issa’s case which we think is an important step in addressing his grievances.
On February/11/ 2015 Issa filed an information request to Kamonyi District through www.sobanukirwa.rw an access to information website in Rwanda created by ODESUDI in partnership with Tumenye with help from mysociety. His request can be found on “https://sobanukirwa.rw/request/ikib...” of which unfortunately he never got any response and yet his question was too simple and clear to ignore. He simply wanted Kamonyi District authorities to explain why, nearly seven years after they were mobilised to buy shares into what was called Kamonyi Investment Group (KIG), nothing had come of it, they were neither refunded nor given any explanation.
ODESUDI commends The New times which took the responsibility to carry out the investigation to uncover the underlying truth. In this article, “http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/a...”, which we believe is an important step in addressing Issa’s grievances and to provide accountability to the likes of Issa. According to The New Times, KIG was just one of the many groups formed about six years ago as a vehicle through which natives of a particular district would pool resources to shore up investments that would spur development.

Other than bringing returns on investors’ capital, the investments had been envisaged to scale up employment and bringing services closer to the people.
In Kamonyi, a share was set at Rwf100,000 and one could buy as much as their financial capacity allowed.
Speaking to The New Times, last week, Marc Rugenera, the chairperson of KIG, admitted the slow progress, which he attributed to lack of a proper business plan and lack of ownership on the part of the shareholders.
“Our progress is still really slow. People pledged money during the fundraising but they never paid, even those that paid, it was less than their commitment. So far, we have only Rwf60 million of the Rwf1 billion that had been pledged,” said Rugenera, who owns and manages a local insurance company, Radiant.
He said the available money is not enough to implement a meaningful project that can have an impact in the district.
Rugenera said, over time, different ideas have been discussed but because they lack a business plan, they have been abandoned midway.

“Some of the projects that have been floated include building affordable houses, a milk processing plant, among others,” he said, arguing that for people to sink their money into a project, they need to be first furnished with a business plan to assess the feasibility.

“I cannot make any decision on my own, the board will have to sit and decide on any alternatives because projects they think about are too big for the little money available,” said Rugenera.
He also accused the district of not honouring its commitment, as it was meant to be among the major shareholders in KIG.

Asked about the way forward, he said they can work with the district to identify an investor with plans to put up an investment in the district, and instead use the money available to buy shares into the project.
According to the Kamonyi vice mayor in charge of economic development, Claudine Uwineza, there has been minimal interaction between the shareholders and the district, with the former being reluctant to release their funding because there is no proper plan for the investment.
“There have been disagreements even during the few meetings held between shareholders.
The leadership of the group has also changed severally, leading to uncertainty. I think the most critical issue at the moment is putting to use the available money so that those that honoured their pledges can start getting their dividends,” she said.

Gasabo shines

However, what is arguably the most outstanding group is one for Gasabo District, which has been incorporated as Gasabo Investment Company.

The company has, according to its chairperson Fabrice Shema Ngoga, so far managed to put together Rwf2 billion to finance its flagship project.

The project, dubbed ‘Kimironko Hub,’ will see an ultramodern shopping complex built in the area that currently occupies Kimironko market and the adjacent taxi-park.

Ngoga said, by the end of the year, they will break ground for the project that, according to its master plan, will be completed at a cost of $80 million (about Rwf55 billion).

All is not rosy, however, as ground breaking had been slated for July, last year.
“We have conducted a good study on that and plan to start activities of the first phase of shopping mall before the year ends. If you check Gasabo master plan, you will get details on Kimironko Hub,” he said.
The company was launched in 2013, and, according to Ngoga, they currently have about 410 shareholders.

Kamonyi not alone

Kamonyi is not alone in those woes. A random check with a number of districts indicated the same problem; lack of business plan and strategy to convince investors to commit their money.

The Mayor of Bugesera, Louis Rwagaju, said Bugesera Investment Group (BIG) shareholders had managed to pool about Rwf80 million, but there was not enough information on the project to be undertaken.

“Even those projects that had been considered, there was no feasibility study. For example, there is a plan to build a mall in Nyamata town but there is no conclusive study. As a district, we had agreed to provide a plot where the mall would be built,” he said, adding that there was still hope to resuscitate the project.

Rwagaju said another challenge is bringing together the shareholders to make required decisions within limited time.
Justus Kangwagye, the mayor of Rulindo, said their investment group totally failed and the district resorted to splitting it into smaller clusters that are also still trying to put together money to embark on smaller projects.
“Having one group for the whole district failed because it is difficult for people from the entire district to have common understanding, especially on benefits accrued from a particular project,” Kangwagye said, adding that it was more practical to split them into groups of particular interests.
Kangwagye said what is there is only social and political cooperation to develop the local community, but in economic terms the arrangement would not work.

Gakenke chips in

Meanwhile, in Gakenke, the district, after realising there was slow progress, chipped in and launched Rwf450 million project to set up modern abattoir in the district, in the name of Gakenke Investment Group.
The other shareholders had only contributed Rwf20 million.
The mayor, Deogratius Nzamwita, said in the same spirit, they plan to set up a modern workshop, commonly known as Agakiriro, which will help train and employ hundreds of youths in the district, but added that this will only happen after shareholders commit more funds.

Minicom speaks out

Commenting about the effectiveness of the groups, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, admitted that there was slow progress, adding that a more technical study needs to be undertaken that will help fix the loopholes.
“We are currently conducting a study in conjunction with the Private Sector Federation to come up with a tangible solution and see how we can support them and the study is in final stages,” he said.

The minister agrees that the groups exist but, without a clear framework, they have failed to take off yet there is visible commitment by the people to invest in the development of their districts.

This is great news that The new times managed to investigate about the underlying problems with the district investment groups. But the question is on how districts can enhance their accountability to people like Issa who used sobanukirwa access to information website to get an explanation from Kamonyi district. ODESUDI appeals to institutions responsible to handle this case to see that Issa and his colleagues are given satisfactory explanations. Kamonyi and other district in question should convene meetings for the District Investment Group shareholders to provide explanations and agree on the way forward.