As a proactive measure to address any issues or grievances faced by any of the microfinance clients, the Lanka Microfinance Practitioners’ Association (LMFPA), in consultation with the State Ministry of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Microfinance, Self-Employment and Business Development, established a ‘Microfinance Helpline’ for the general public, and to persuade and encourage the stakeholders to take timely corrective measures for such grievances. The launch of this initiative took place on the 3rd of August 2021 at the Auditorium of State Ministry of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Microfinance, Self-Employment and Business Development, 1st Floor, Sethsiripaya Stage II, Battaramulla.
Adverse media reports about the microfinance industry were circulated in the recent past in Sri Lanka. These reports drew concerns for the LMFPA as they could have serious implications on the industry as a whole. LMFPA is the umbrella network in Sri Lanka representing 53 Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) who are engaged in microfinance services that serve over 2 million low income households in the country with a loan portfolio of over Rs. 80 billion.
When such media reports appeared in several occasions in the recent past, LMFPA responded to these institutions with the good intention of fact finding and to take any remedial measures if any. LMFPA as a responsible body wishes to safeguard the key industry stakeholders, especially the poor and low income clients, who are considered to be the most vulnerable segment, and who are presently facing the impact of COVID 19 pandemic, while ensuring the sustainability of the member organisations and the industry at large.
The procedure of the customer complaint handling system is as follows:
- Complaints can be made in either Sinhala or Tamil.
- Only complaints from direct borrowers will be entertained for follow up actions.
- Verbal telephone complaints to be followed up with written complaints and are to be sent to LMFPA either through WhatsApp/Viber/email or by post.
- If the complaint is against an LMFPA member, then it would be notified to the respective member organization to take remedial action within 2 weeks.
- For complaints regarding non-LMFPA members, LMFPA would still write to them as an Industry Association to take action and a copy to be sent to the State Ministry of Microfinance for follow up action.
The State Minister in his address commended the efforts of the LMFPA for introducing a microfinance helpline at this time of need. “The objective of microfinance is to provide assistance to those households that are incapable of raising capital for income generating activities. But in recent times through the media we have heard various complaints from microfinance beneficiaries facing various kinds of harassment from lending institutions.
The objective of this helpline is to curb such incidents and address the grievances of the affected parties in a transparent manner,” stated Hon. Shehan Semasinghe – State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment and Business Development. He also stated that the government is ready to introduce a Micro Credit and Regulatory Authority Act very soon and that it is encouraging that Microfinance Institutions are already taking a novelty approach to handle customer grievances.
LMFPA hopes this initiative will lead to finding solutions to genuine grievances of microfinance clients, minimize criticism levelled at the industry and ensure the important role played by MFIs in the national economic development and reduce disparities in the distribution of benefits of development to rural, plantation and other under privileged communities in the country.
All print and electronic media are entrusted to collaborate in bringing this message to the masses so that the desired objectives of this initiative can be obtained. We also request repeat awareness creation as it is paramount that people be made aware of this programme on a continuous basis.
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