The State minister for Micro Finance Haruna Kasolo Kyeyune has ordered the arrest of Ruharo Heifer Project SACCO officials for alleged embezzlement of SACCO funds worth 140m shillings.
Hon. Kasolo made the call on Thursday while launching Emyooga project which was started by President Museveni to benefit saloon owners, bodaboda riders and other entrepreneur groups in the country.
The minister said that he had been informed that Ruharo Heifer Project SACCO Ltd is on the verge of collapse after Shs 140m worth of savings was swindled from it.
“I have received information that leaders of Ruharo SACCO connived and swindled savers’ money, so I have instructed the RDC and our security team in the district to ensure that these people are arrested and are taken to court,” Kasolo said.
David Byamukama, the Bushenyi District Commercial Officer (DCO), confirmed that Hon. Kasolo had directed that all the accused officials involved be arrested, including the SACCO’s Chairman, Manager and Treasurer.
“The minister also directed that a re-audit of the books of accounts be undertaken to ascertain the culprits,” he said.
Minister Kasolo charged that he will only support Ruharo SACCO once the indicted members are arrested.
“I have been informed that the SACCO has not actually died, it’s still sick; so I must get an injection and treat the sickness but I will only do that if the culprits are arrested,” he insisted.
Jolly Tibemanya, the Resident District Commissioner, Bushenyi, said that investigations would be conducted and arrests made of all those found guilty of misusing SACCO funds.
In January 15, 2020 this website reported that residents of Bushenyi had appealed to the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Lt. Col. Edith Nakalema, over the looming collapse of their SACCO due to alleged abuse and misuse of the SACCO’s funds.
Ruharo Heifer SACCO is one of the “model” projects supported by President Museveni in Bushenyi district and has over the years benefited from the president’s largesse in a bid to avail banking services to the largely agrarian community of Ruharo in Bumbaire Sub-County.
Despite the president’s substantial financial backing, however, the SACCO’s members were late last year shocked to learn that they could not access their savings, with over 90 percent of the SACCO’s funds missing.
Inadequate supervision blamed
Apollo Kakonge Lee, the Executive Director, Western Ankole Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) attributed the SACCO’s collapse to poor management and lack of supervision from the District Commercial Officers.
“I think supervision is at its weakest, because the DCOs ought to ensure that cooperatives are compliant, have in place safeguards to protect shareholders’ money, are regularly audited and action taken against those who are noncompliant,” he said.
“But by the time you wait for members to start raising issues that their money has been stolen, it means the practice has been going on for some good time. So the question is: where is the commercial officer? Is he doing his work or he is also part of the game?”
However, the Bushenyi DCO maintains that he did the best he could in the face of a staffing shortage that makes adequate supervision of all the many cooperatives in his jurisdiction difficult.
“I did my work to the best of my ability. Remember, I have been the only staff in the department, supervising even SACCOS in the municipality which should not be my docket,” Byamukama said.
He also said that his immediate concern is the rampant defaulting on loans within the SACCO and the negative publicity of the SACCO by some elements within it.
“Some of them want to stand and so they want to cash in on the situation for political reasons. These elements are discouraging members from repaying loans and savings,” he said.
Corruption crippling SACCOs
Kakonge also believes that the corruption and mismanagement of public affairs that are reportedly rampant within government organisations have started to trickle down and eat up once-successful cooperatives. Unchecked, he predicts these vices will lead to the collapse of other SACCOs in the region.
“Yes there are SACCOs that are doing well since they have a strong foundation of governance, but very many of them are going to collapse.Some others have already collapsed because they don’t have the members’ savings,” Kakonge said.
According to documents seen by theCooperator in January, the total unpaid loans from the SACCO amounted to Shs 128m owed by over eighty individuals, among them several high-profile district officials.
Attempts by SACCO members to recover their money have so far been unsuccessful even after petitioning the anti-corruption unit on the advice of their area MP, Arinda Gordon Cowboy, who promised to follow up on the matter.
The minister is spending a week in Ankole region as part of a countrywide campaign to sensitise the masses and disburse Emyooga funds to entrepreneur-generated projects.