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Emyooga accounts Frozen over cash theft

KIKUUBE A slow-simmering scandal over the theft of Emyooga cash from a SACCO bank account in the western district of Hoima and the arrest of a local official there has brought potentially disastrous consequences for other saving groups.

To stop the theft of more funds, the Residence District Commissioner of Kikuube, Amlan Tumusiime has written to the bank stopping the disbursement of Emyooga funds to SACCO groups.

In his April, 12 2021 letter, addressed to the Branch Manager DFCU Bank Limited Hoima, Tumusiime ordered the bank to halt the disbursement of Emyooga funds to SACCO members until further notice.

The government through the Uganda Microfinance Support Centre wired over Shs 1 billion to 36 Saving and Credit Co-operative Society (SACCO) accounts in Kikuube district to support 826 Emyooga groups. Eighteen of the SACCOs are in Buhaguzi East Constituency, while the rest are in Buhaguzi Constituency.

The suspension means that Emyooga association members who have been preparing to get money to boost their businesses will have to wait until the suspension is lifted. 

According to Tumusiime, the district leadership has noticed that SACCO leaders are misappropriating the funds meant to fight poverty and create job opportunities. 

He said he has also observed that there are no set guidelines to follow to access the money, which has led to the embezzlement of the funds.

The suspension comes after authorities in the district arrested John Paul Mugabi, the chairman of Buhaguzi Constituency Mechanics Saving and Credit Co-operative Society (SACCO), on suspicion of stealing Shs 15.2 million from the SACCO bank account and used the money to buy a personal vehicle.

According to Tumusiime, several reports of mismanagement of Emyooga funds are received daily. He said police is hunting down the chairperson of Buhaguzi Constituency Veteran’s Saving and Credit Co-operative Society (SACCO) who withdrew money and disappeared.

He said the Emyooga cash thefts forced him to suspend the withdrawal of the money. He said the bank will be informed about the next course of action after sorting out the issue.

“This is to request you to immediately halt the disbursement of all Emyooga funds on SACCO accounts, the members have been directed to pay back their initial payments received by signatories and members of the SACCO,” he wrote to the bank, adding that members who are paying back should be allowed to deposit. 

“Please note that this measure and directive comes into effect today, the 12th of April 2021, it will be upon the recoveries of the monies misappropriated that I will issue a statement to allow the re-assumption of the disbursement,” the letter further reads.

Sources close to Tumusiime told theCooperator that the RDC has information that some district officials are also involved in the scam.

“Some district officials are conniving with signatories to steal the money but I am going to arrest all of them,” a source quoted Tumusime as saying.

Musa Mugisa, a member of Buhaguzi East Carpentry SACCO, welcomed the freezing of the SACCO accounts. He said if there are anomalies in the implementation of the programme it is right to halt cash withdrawals.

He said, however, that members need to be taught about the objectives of the programme because many beneficiaries think the money is a reward for their political loyalty. “I know the suspended disbursement of money will have a negative impact on the beneficiaries who need this money to boost their business but what should be done if some members have started misusing the money?” he said.

The Kikuube District Community Development Officer, Annette Kabahaguzi said SACCO members were sensitized on how to utilize the money but many believe it’s a political reward.  

“The money is supposed to keep rotating in the SACCO to help the population to fight poverty and create their own jobs but since this programme started in the political season, many think the money is given to them in appreciation for voting some politicians,” she explained 

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