The Registrar of cooperatives in the Ministry of Trade, Industry,
and Cooperatives has warned commercial banks in which Uganda Cooperative Alliance(UCA) has accounts, to take extra effort to authenticate any documents pertaining change of account signatories, noting that any such changes must be accompanied by a resolution certified by his office.
In a letter dated 15th November 2019 addressed to the Managing Director ABSA (formerly Barclays Bank), the registrar Joseph William Kitandwe noted that his office had learned that some officials from UCA were “Attempting to change signatories to the Institution’s Bank Account(s) without certified resolutions from the Office of the Registrar of Cooperatives in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives,” noting that “pursuant to section (44) of the Cooperative Societies Act cap 112, all registered societies, Uganda Cooperative Alliance inclusive, are required to certify resolutions pertaining bank accounts.”
The development follows a move by UCA’s board of directors to suspend the Institution’s finance manager and attempt to replace him as a signatory on all UCA’s bank accounts before the board resolution was certified by the Registrar of cooperatives as demanded by the law.
Sources at UCA told theCooperator that on the day the resolution suspending the finance manager was passed on November 11th 2019, UCA General Secretary Ivan Asiimwe submitted a copy of the same to the office of the registrar for certification, but the registrar instead wrote back to the Chairperson of the UCA Board seeking to understand the reasons for the Finance Manager’s suspension.
In the letter, a copy of which theCooperator has seen, the Registrar also inquired whether the board had been guided by UCA’s Human Resource manual as required by law, so as to avoid unnecessary court petitions against UCA in future.
But before the Chairperson of the UCA board could respond to the registrar’s letter, the General Secretary Asiimwe on Wednesday 13th November moved to register the yet-to-be certified resolution with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau(URSB), in a move seemingly designed to side-step the requirement for the Registrar’s certification and validate the document’s use in official UCA transactions.
UCA owns accounts in Stanbic Bank, ABSA Bank, Bank of Africa and Housing Finance Bank. In one such letter to Stanbic Bank seen by theCooperator, Asiimwe wrote to the manager of the bank’s Forest Mall branch, introducing Isabirye Richard Katairo, previously serving as UCA’s accountant, as the new signatory on the Institution’s account alongside himself, and attached the now registered board resolution as the document authorizing the change.
But in an interview with theCooperator, Tonny Tumukunde, a registrar at URSB argued that UCA’s document registration is just a normal procedure under the Registration of Documents Act 1922, and does not cure any defect in the given document or confer upon it validity that it otherwise did not have beyond what is provided for in the Act.
A law don who spoke to theCooperator on condition of anonymity agreed with Tumukunde, arguing that the 1992 Cooperatives Act is the principal law on all cooperatives’ matters and that the mere registration of a document under the Documents Act is inconsequential and confers no legality or validity to it.
When contacted for a comment, an official in the registrar’s office who declined to be identified to be able to speak candidly on the matter argued that Asiimwe’s attempt to utilize a document not certified by the registrar to transact official business of UCA just adds to the several cases of impropriety that the department has already registered with the police in relation to the General Secretary.
Section 80(1) of the Cooperatives Act 1992 stipulates that “It shall be an offense under this Act if a registered society or an officer or member of a registered society knowingly performs any act which requires the consent or approval of the registrar without having first obtained such consent or approval.”
Asiimwe and the Board Chairperson Johnas Tweyambe claimed to be in meetings when contacted for comments on the matter, and both were still unable to comment by press time.
The two themselves only remain in office by court order, having been asked to step aside by the Registrar on 24th October 2019, to pave way for smooth investigations into allegations of fraud, financial impropriety and abuse of office that have rocked the Cooperatives body for the most part of this year. But on 28th October 2019, they secured a High Court injunction halting the execution of the registrar’s directive, until the hearing of their main petition