Remember a milk factory in Burera district over which various officials struggled to explain to President Paul Kagame why it was not operating despite millions invested? Here is part of its story.
On May 8, Kagame visited Burera district, bordering Kisoro district of Uganda. Locals reported to him that they have nowhere to sell their milk as a dairy factory built in the area had opened briefly and then closed.
In subsequent questioning, neither the the Burera district Mayor Florence Uwambajemariya, nor central government officials knew exactly what had happened.
Agencies involved in the project include the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), Rwanda Development Board and the Business Development Fund (BDF).
Now, a report by a Parliamentary committee probing the failures in the agriculture sector has given some details. The 9-member team has been doing its job since April and presented its findings this Monday August 5.
Burera Dairy was set up in 2014 as part of a NIRDA project that established several other factories in different districts to boast development from below. This Bureta factory, built by a Spanish contractor NORCROSS, was to produce 9 milk products including cheese, yogurt and packed milk.
According to its business plan, the factory was to receive 2,000 litres of milk daily. However, when it opened, it could barely receive half.
The machine installed for yogurt failed to operate and was abandoned. The ‘Cold Room’ meant to preserve cheese did not work leading to the dumping of 5,000kgs of cheese produced during the trial period.
In 2015, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, hired a consultant of Spanish nationality RUBEN Valbuena Barrenechaa to revamp the factory. He was to leave when the factory was fully operational.
However, a parliamentary report says he was paid 49,500 Euros (Rwf 50.4m) and left yet the factory was operating at less than half the operating capacity.
In addition, the probe reports that the consultant had academic background in Geography, with no indication of skills related to milk production.
Parliament has given the Prime Minister Dr Edouard Ngirente a period of 6 months to ensure the factory is fully operational and culprits punished.
Already, the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) has opened criminal probe into Burera Dairy and other similar projects which failed to materialise, losing taxpayers money.
Meanwhile, following President Kagame’s intervention, the factory has reopened. It remains unclear if the flaws that led to its closure have been solved.