Cooperatives & Communities

Co-operators urged to stick to cooperative values

Co-operators in Uganda have been advised to keep on exhibiting cooperative values if they are to remain autonomous and play their part in improving members’ welfare.

According to Jane Amuge Okello, the Director of Operations at the Uhuru Institute for Social Development [TUI], cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.

She added that co-operators must observe the ethical values of honesty, openness, and caring for others.

Amuge made the call last Saturday while training top managers and leaders of Lwamujungu Cooperative Financial Services Limited in Kabale Municipality.

The training focused on the regulatory and legal framework, leadership, and governance in cooperatives.

The senior managers of the cooperative were enlightened on how best they can handle issues of loans, human resources, administration, and customer care among others.

According to Amuge, TUI’s objective, among others, is to have leaders of cooperatives serve their members and not the other way round. She said cooperatives must have visionary and transformational leaders that are able to leave a legacy behind.

The training of the cooperative leaders, she said was intended to make cooperatives better. “All this is intended to make sure that, cooperatives are more efficient in serving their members but also in terms of product development,” she said.

Amuge warned that some cooperatives have failed to exercise the principle of autonomy and independence, as they want to depend on donors.

“Cooperatives need to ensure autonomy and independence so that they are not influenced by donors, politicians, or some of their leaders who might have their own political interests,” she said.

“What we have seen before is that a number of cooperatives have deviated from their visions and missions as they seek donor money,” she said.

She urged cooperatives to boost their asset base if they are to stop waiting to get grants from donors.

She said the Cooperative Bank collapsed because it was getting good support from United States Agency for International Development [USAID].

“When you look at the balance sheet of the Co-operative Bank at the time of its closure, the huge chunk of its assets was actually belonging to USAID and when it came to a decision to liquidate the bank, the donors had a significant hand in it and ruled that the bank was not able to run on its own,” she said.

She said by the time Cooperative Bank was closed, cooperatives hardly owned 20 percent of Cooperative Bank. “In such a scenario, it becomes very difficult for the cooperatives to claim autonomy if about 80 percent of its assets base is external,” she said.

She also encouraged co-operators to always choose leaders with integrity and visionary dreams to show them direction.

“Always identify the character of leadership, when you are hiring leaders don’t focus on paperwork because some people forge papers to earn a job but look at what he does, are you building competency? Your need is to have diversity and experience in what you are doing.”

Amon Mutabarura, one of the technical support associates of TUI also encouraged co-operators to take a keen interest in some of the laws of the country, saying it will help them in leading members.

Dicky Byamukama, General Manager-Lyamujungu Cooperative Services Limited said they would now close the gap between the leadership and members, having attended the training that involved capacity building.

“We are glad for partnering with the Uhuru institute and supporting us in capacity building. My appeal to fellow leaders is that they should share the information received from the training with other team players to grow our Sacco to greater heights,” Byamukama said.

“We have now learned that the members of the Sacco need to be availed with information concerning their Sacco. We have been waiting for the annual general meeting where we would share with them the reports of performance indicators but now we shall use our notice boards and our website to disseminate information regarding the Sacco,” he added.

Lyamujungu Cooperative Financial Services Limited has eight branches and four outreaches in Kigezi region. It has 29,000 members, share capital of Shs 4 billion, loan portfolio of Shs 12bln, and total savings of Shs 6 bln.

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