BUSHENYI: Residents of Ruharo parish, Bumbaire Sub County in Bushenyi- Ishaka municipality have appealed to the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit Edith Nakalema, over the looming collapse of their SACCO due to alleged abuse and misuse of the SACCO’s funds.
Until recently, Ruharo HAIFA SACCO has been one of the “model” projects supported by President Museveni in Bushenyi District. In 2003, Museveni launched the SACCO with a shs.140 million as start-up capital to avail banking services to the largely agrarian community of Ruharo in Bumbaire Sub-County.
Having stood the test of time, the President in 2013, boosted the SACCO with another shs.100 million, later adding shs.20million, to grow its turnover to over shs.400 million.
Despite the huge presidential support however, the SACCO’s members were recently shocked to learn that they could not access their savings, with over 90 percent of the SACCO’s funds missing.
A source told theCooperator that none of the members who sought to withdraw money during the Christmas season could access their savings, with the manager revealing that the SACCO had only shs.178,000 on its account, out of an expected shs.400,000.
The SACCO’s board chairman Fred Mugisha attributed the poor state of the SACCO to members’ failure to repay their loan commitments, saying that as the SACCO they have been unable to compel the defaulters to honor their loan commitments.
According to the SACCO’s documents seen by theCooperator, there over eighty members with outstanding loans from the SACCO, amounting to shs. 128 million in total. Among the high-profile defaulters include the Bushenyi District LCV Chairperson Jafari Basajabaraba and the District Engineer Bonimpa Kiiza Banabas, with outstanding loans of shs. 2,810,000 and shs. 3,093,800 respectively.
Having failed to secure their savings, SACCO members first appealed to their area Member of Parliament Gordon Arinda, prompting a meeting with him on January 6th to see how they can recover their money.
Mr. Arinda confirmed the poor state of the SACCO, and promised to work with the RDC to compel defaulters to pay back the loans, starting with the district local government officials. He also promised to write to the president seeking his intervention.
Steven Karuti, the LCIII chairperson central division blamed the SACCO’s woes to the SACCO management and board, accusing them of failing to hold a single meeting with members to address the now festered challenges in the SACCO when they first began to emerge.
Pison Mugizi, the founder of Butuuro SACCO – another successful savings and credit scheme in Nyakabirizi division agrees with Karuti, saying that every SACCO rises and falls on its leadership.
“You find they have a loans supervisory committee but don’t know what to do, and money continues to be swindled when they are just looking on,” he said
Mugizi, who is also the chairperson of ‘Make Bushenyi Great Again’(MBUGA) – a pressure group designed to promote accountability in the district, noted that they would follow up the matter to help the Ruharo SACCO members recover their money, and ensure that those responsible for the abuse of the SACCO and its funds are held to account.
Arinda in collaboration with the RDC has asked the District Commercial Officer to initiate a forensic audit of the SACCO to guide the investigations.
In the meantime, theCooperator has learnt that some SACCO members reached out to the State House Anti-corruption unit and were supposed to meet with Nakalema’s team yesterday. By press time we were not able to ascertain whether they had succeeded in meeting Nakalema and if so, what they had resolved as the next course of action.