State Minister for Cooperatives Fredrick Ngobi Gume has condemned persistent cases of fraud in cooperatives, arguing that they are undermining the country’s efforts towards cooperatives development.
Speaking at Wakiso District’s annual awards ceremony for the best performing cooperatives in the district held at Imperial Resort Hotel Entebbe on Thursday last week, Gume, who represented President Museveni as Chief Guest, urged cooperators to “take back control” of their cooperatives by getting more involved in the day-to-day running of their affairs, arguing that it is the only way they can hold management accountable and forestall abuse of member savings and investments.
“People are so reluctant to task management to account for their money. Some cooperators even fear the manager, who essentially is their employee. That’s irresponsible. Members must always task their cooperatives managers to account for every coin,” he urged.
Ngobi’s remarks come at a time when the Cooperatives’ apex body – Uganda Cooperative Alliance is beset by a governance and management crisis, with the institution’s General Secretary Ivan Asiimwe battling charges of forgery and fraud in courts of law.
In his keynote address, the Executive Director of The Uhuru Institute for Social Development, Leonard Okello challenged the cooperators to pay keen attention to the track record of candidates before electing them to office, noting that members’ choice of who leads them should be guided by the founding goals of the cooperative and who’s best suited to lead them towards attaining them.
Okello told the cooperators that while favorable government is an important enabler for development of cooperatives, the manner and quality of the leadership and management of cooperatives is even more important, and called upon cooperatives to keep proper books of record, profile members and be ready to take advantage of emerging business trends like the internet for marketing and advertising.
Wakiso Chief Administrative Officer Luke Lokuda applauded what he called a positive attitude towards cooperatives in the district, noting that cooperatives have been significantly responsible for the improving economic fortunes of the district. The district boasts of the highest number of cooperatives in the country with over 20,000 currently registered. This year alone, the district registered 77 new cooperatives.
This year, Tusitukirewamu Katabi Sub-county development SACCO emerged cooperative of the year in the district, while Kinakwekulakulanya SACCO took home the award of the most innovative cooperative. In the transport category, Bugonga Airport taxi operators SACCO bagged the best taxi operating cooperative society award, while the best Boda Boda cooperative award went to Kakiri Boda Boda Riders’ cooperative.
In other categories, Entebbe Teachers’ SACCO was awarded the best teachers’ cooperative society award, while Civil Aviation Authority SACCO received the best employee based cooperative award. Heifer international, Charitas Kampala and Hunger free Uganda were recognized as the most outstanding nongovernmental organizations.
The cooperatives were assessed and awarded based on their ability to comply with record-keeping and budget making, conducting in-time annual audits and submitting annual returns to the registrar of cooperatives.
Other criteria included concern for community member economic participation and being able to hold Annual General Meetings within 90 calendar days as prescribed by the law.
In his concluding remarks, Minister Gume advised cooperators to always find amicable ways to resolve conflicts in cooperatives, arguing that resolving matters internally would save them the money and time wasted in courts.