MPs want Auditor General to investigate Women’s Bank

The Auditor General’s office has been urged to investigate the Women’s Microfinance Bank under the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development amid claims that some of the beneficiaries were not women.

This was after the women’s affairs minister, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, announced in Parliament recently that since the inception of the Microfinance Women’s Bank over 87 000 projects have been funded.

However, legislators claimed there could be corruption taking place and questioned if some of these beneficiaries were genuine, as a number of women have raised concerns that they could not access funding from the bank.

The Women’s Bank was opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2018 to give women access to loans for developmental projects and was to have low interest rates with longer repayment periods, while the bank would not demand collateral but rely on the ‘trustworthiness’ of women as an asset in business.

“Therefore, it uses the microfinance rules that are pertaining in the country.  Having said that, it is not completely true to say women are not accessing funding.  It could be true for some but not for all,” Dr Nyoni said while responding to questions.

“The Women’s Bank has different products and one of the products that it has is group lending or that fostered a solidarity economy.”

The minister’s response came after opposition MP, Dr Thokozani Khupe, asked what the women’s bank was doing in making sure women could access cheap loans and be able to replenish their goods in any eventuality.

Dr Nyoni explained that the government was aware that women are vulnerable and were not all at the same level.

“When you really talk of vulnerable people at the bottom of the economic pyramid, women form the majority and therefore there is a product within the Women’s Bank that says women can come together in groups of three up to 10 and then they borrow guaranteeing each other.  In that way, you do not need any security at all,” she said.

The minister challenged the legislators to go into all the banks in this country and see how much those banks have lent to Small Medium Enterprises, to the informal sector and compare with how much the Women’s Bank has done.

“It (the bank) is run by a woman and in my opinion, she is doing a sterling job.  So far since we opened, over 87 000 projects have been funded by the bank and I would like Honourable Members to compare that figure with what other banks have delivered,” Dr Nyoni said.

“I think these groups of women have really done their best. Let us support them for what they have done and if there are any specific cases that the Honourable Members know if it is brought to their attention and the attention of the Ministry, we always try to do our best to solve any challenges that our clients face.”

However, Southerton legislator, Peter Moyo disputed the minister’s sentiments, noting there was evidence the bank wanted collateral which most of the women did not have.

“I have so many examples in my constituency of people who were denied the benefit of this money. I do not even know the purpose of this bank because Madam Speaker, when she says there were 87 000 accounts that were opened, it then means that there is a lot of corruption in that Women’s Bank because I do not know who they are giving this money to.  I propose that the Auditor-General do a forensic audit in the Women’s Bank because most of the women in this country have not benefited,” he said.

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