Kiyapili Sibanda, Business Reporter
THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development has directed the People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) to review the Women Development Fund (WDF) loan interest and stop disbursement of funds to pave way for an audit.
In a WDF 2017 report tabled in Parliament last week the committee said interest rates should be reviewed downwards in order to empower marginalised women in the communities. It noted that most projects were struggling to take off as a result of heavy interest rates charged on loans.
POSB administers the WDF on behalf of the ministry and charges an interest rate of 10 percent per annum.
The committee observed that most projects were struggling to pay back due to perceived high interest rates.
“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development and POSB authorities should enforce the deplume rule while at the same time meet and review the interests that are charged on disbursed loans,” reads the report.
The committee noted that the WDF is a Government facility which is supposed to empower women and as such its interests should be affordable.
It said the target of the fund are marginalised women hence the need for POSB to revise its interest rates downwards.
The committee recommended the ministry should immediately stop disbursing funds under WDF and carry out an audit first.
“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development should with immediate effect stop disbursing funds under WDF and immediately carry out an audit and evaluation of all projects funded under WDF since 2010 to ascertain their viability status.
“WDF is a revolving fund. It is critical that the ministry ensures that all projects owing urgently make payments. This will enable other groups, which have been waiting for financial assistance, to benefit from the same fund,” the committee said.
The report noted that the WDF repayment status in most provinces was critically low except in Masvingo and Midlands provinces.
The committee urged the ministry and POSB to jointly provide full financial services and facilities to graduate WDF projects from survival level into strong and viable businesses.