Several cooperatives in western Uganda have been forced to postpone their scheduled Annual General Meetings (AGMs) as the social and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to mount.
All cooperatives are required by law to hold an Annual General Meeting once a year and in any case not later than 3 months after the close of the co-operative’s financial year. In line with this requirement, several SACCOs whose financial years ended in December 2019 had AGMs scheduled for March this year.
However, in the wake of anti-COVID-19 ‘social distancing’ measures limiting gatherings to a maximum of five participants, several SACCOs in western Uganda have been forced to cancel and postpone their scheduled AGMs.
According to the Rwampara District Commercial Officer, Amon Mutabarura, out of 23 cooperatives with AGMs scheduled within the first quarter of this year, only three had successfully completed the exercise before the ban on large gatherings was instituted. The rest were cancelled after the presidential directive.
“We should have had many AGMs by now, but with this Coronavirus pandemic, most of them were postponed,” Mutabarura said.
Some Rwampara cooperatives whose 2019 AGMs had to be cancelled are: Rwampara Dairy Farmers SACCO Ltd, Teachers Yendezana SACCO Ltd, Rubingo Farmers SACCO Ltd, Rugando People’s SACCO Ltd, Mwizi Coffee farmers SACCO Ltd, Kinoni SACCO Ltd, Mwizi SACCO Ltd, Rwampara Farmers and Traders SACCO Ltd, Bugamba United SACCO Ltd, and Rugando FRONASA and Veterans SACCO Ltd, among others.
Nevertheless, Mutabarura pledged that all cooperatives in Rwampara district would hold their AGMs after the novel Coronavirus pandemic has been defeated.
“It is not yet too late to hold the AGMs. As soon as the country is declared free of the Coronavirus, we shall be able to resume our normal businesses and begin from where we had stopped,” he pledged.
Meanwhile in Bushenyi district, Butuuro SACCO was compelled to postpone its AGM which had been scheduled for March 21, 2020. According to Pison Mugizi, the SACCO’s patron, the decision to postpone was taken in compliance with the presidential directive suspending all public meetings.
He says suspension of the AGM cost the SACCO a lot of money because they had already paid for the venue and incurred costs related to publicising the planned meeting.
“We had already sent out messages to members and placed public announcements on local radios. We had also hired the meeting venue which was supposed to be College View Guest House in Bushenyi,” Mugizi said.
However, he said the SACCO’s management was in touch with members and would prepare for the AGM once the situation normalises.
Equally affected was Mbarara district’s Ankole Diocese Millennium SACCO whose AGM was slated for March 24, 2020, according to its patron, Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Sheldon Frederick Mwesigwa.
“Our AGM was supposed to take place on March 24, 2020, but due to COVID-19, it was suspended until further notice. Let’s pray for God’s intervention such that our country Uganda stabilizes and everything resumes normally,” said Mwesigwa.
However, some cooperatives reported completing their AGMs earlier in the year and were thus unaffected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Justus Bathishida, the General Manager Nyarubanga SACCO in Mbarara Municipality, said that they had held their AGM before the suspension on meetings was declared.
“Luckily for us, we had held our 2019 Annual General Meeting on March 3, 2020, about two weeks before the presidential directives suspending public meetings,” Bathishida said.
Other cooperatives that held their AGMs before the suspension include Kakoba-Mbarara SACCO, a prominent financial cooperative in western Uganda that has been operating for 10 years and runs a Shs 1.3 billion budget.
“We held the 2019 pre-AGM in January, 2020 and the AGM on February 23, 2020 and everything was concluded,” explained the SACCO’s Manager, Sajabi Edmond.
In Rwampara district, the early birds include Keikara Rugando SACCO Ltd, Rwampara Farmers and Traders Development SACCO Ltd and Bugamba Peoples SACCO Ltd which had completed their AGMs prior to the lockdown.