HOIMA – In a speech at the annual general meeting of the Hoima District Referees Saving and Credit Co-Operative Society (Sacco), Board Chairman Patrick Kunihira, publicly voiced his concern about a deliberate lack of financial and technical support from the Microfinance Support Center (MSC).
Kunihira told members gathered at Kitara Secondary School on April 4 that last year the Sacco applied for a loan of Shs 50 million but has got no response to date.
He said such challenges are frustrating the growth of the Sacco in the district yet MSC is mandated to help Saccos grow.
He said they submitted all the paperwork including a land title valued at Shs 50 million but MSC refused to give the loan.
He said the SACCO management wrote to the commissioner in charge of MSC and got the much-needed nod of approval for the loan.
“Our Sacco is moving on well but the challenge we are getting is that government is not supporting us, in July last year we applied for a Shs 50 million loan but to-date MSC has not replied to our request, we have moved, given them our land title and everything they demanded but unfortunately they have not given us this loan. Government injects a lot of money in MSC, now we are asking ourselves if they can’t lend money to our Sacco, who does MSC lend to?” he asked.
He also accused the minister of Finance Matia Kasaija of neglecting Saccos formed to help people climb out of poverty.
“As Banyoro we are wondering why we cannot benefit from the NRM government yet our president always points to our own in government like Finance Minister Matia Kasija.”
He said they invited MSC officials and local leaders to attend the AGM but nobody turned up including the local council chairperson. He said Saccos are collapsing because leaders and MSC officials don’t value and support them.
Interviewed for a comment, Andrew Zimbe, the Microfinance Support Center regional manager, said the loan disbursement was delayed by the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that last year Bank of Uganda wrote to MSC stopping the center from giving out loans because the economy was not doing well at that time. He urged Sacco members to remain calm. Soon, he said, money will be disbursed to the SACCO.
“When we came out of the Covid-19 lockdown you could not rush to give out money because even the people who were having our money were not paying, people who received our money in 2020 were requesting us to reschedule the repayment periods, so we had to study the economy slowly by slowly. Definitely last year no lender was giving out money, even the Bank of Uganda wrote to all banks and commercial institutions and told them that please do not give out loans based on collateral,” he said.
He also said the Sacco never surrendered any land title to MSC. He said the center doesn’t take collateral before giving out loans.
Zimbe apologized for not attending the AGM.
“Personally I was supposed to attend but we had to pick Emyooga certificate for Hoima from our head office, so we had to choose between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
Philip Tibaigana, the Sacco manager, said the Sacco currently has Shs 330 million in savings and Sh22 million in shares.
He said the Sacco, which started in 2015, has 112 members and has given out Shs 279m in loans. The Sacco has two acres of titled land with Eucalyptus trees, computers, and furniture among other things.
Tibaigana however, said some members are failing to save or pay back loans largely due to the ravages of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
“We would be having over Sh 330 million but because of Covid-19 our members lost their businesses and others are just recovering and this reduced our savings because our members are no longer saving as they used to, some are withdrawing their savings to boost their business and others to look after their families,” he said.
He said in the future the Sacco may morph into a bank, have a farm, trees, transport system, and depot. “We want to have investments to ensure sustainability, so I want to encourage our members to continue saving so that we can achieve this dream.”
James Ayebale, the Sacco treasurer, said the Sacco has grown because it follows elaborate policies such as holding meetings and budgets.
“We started at village level but now we are at the district level, it has not been easy but we have been following the Sacco policies, such as financial policy, board policy, and human resources policy,” he said
Julius Tukwasibwe, a teacher at St James SS, said the Sacco has improved his livelihood. He said he has used a small loan borrowed from the Sacco at a 1% interest rate to construct a house, to acquire a plot of land in town, and pay school fees for his children.
During the meeting, Patrick Kunihira was elected chairman deputized by Tadeo Asaba. James Ayebale is the treasurer.
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