Microfinance regulator welcomes interest ruling

Money lenders have been asked to register their businesses to ensure credibility and safety of funds. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

The Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Authority (UMRA) has welcomed the High Court’s ruling that bars unlicensed money lenders from charging borrowers interest on loans.  

The UMRA’s acting director for Supervision, Mr Nelson Mutattiina Kakye, told this publication on Monday that the court’s ruling highlights what the law stipulates.

UMRA is a government agency responsible for licensing, supervision and regulation of Tier 4 Microfinance Institutions, money lenders and savings and cooperatives, among others.

“Court is spot-on as per Tier 4 Microfinance Institutions and Money Lenders’ Act, 2016,”Mr Kakye said.

Mr Kakye said many money lenders are operating without licences yet this is an offence punishable by the law.

He said some microfinance institutions were, however, responding to requirements of the law.

“We have licensed more than 1,000 money lenders so far. The number keeps doubling year in and year out but everyone must get a licence. The sooner they apply for the licence to regularise their lending business the better,” Mr Kakye said.

He added that a licence is a legal requirement and guarantees legal protection, ensures the safety of funds, credibility of the Saccos and makes it easy for Saccos to access funds in form of grants and donations.

In May 2016, Parliament passed the Tier 4 Microfinance Institutions and Money lenders Act to regulate the Tier 4 Microfinance Institutions and money lenders with the objective of protecting the borrowers against unethical practices of the lenders, and to build confidence in microfinance business and promotion of financial inclusion.

In her September 20 ruling, Justice Esta Nambayo observed that money lenders without licences under the Microfinance Institutions and Money Lenders’ Act, 2016, should not demand interest on loans.

Ms Rachael Vanesa Muhwezi, the manager of microfinance institutions at the UMRA, on September 15 expressed concern over the rate at which some fraudulent money lenders and microfinance institutions are reportedly hoodwinking unsuspecting Ugandans into borrowing at exorbitant interest rates, with a target of snatching the collateral security of defaulters.

While addressing participants at a stakeholders’ training in Wakiso District, Ms Muhwezi revealed that they had handled several cases of borrowers whose property had been taken and “we have helped in the process of redeeming it back to the owners”.

Ms Muhwezi also said it is illegal for any money lender to attach, confiscate or sell off the property of borrowers without following the law.

“The law is very clear that within 60 days after issuing demand notice of one, two, three—in a proper delinquency management—that is when you can enforce on property that was offered,” she said, adding, “The borrower has a right to seek someone who can purchase his property at a price higher than what they are meant to pay, instead of a money lender taking it over or selling it cheaply.”

Ms Muhwezi also cautioned money lenders and microfinance institutions against the habit of charging “exorbitant interest rates”.