KAMPALA, UGANDA: A sparsely attended parliament this afternoon agreed to pass the Cooperative Societies Amendment Bill (2016) for second reading, welcoming the move by government to revive cooperative societies and calling for the strengthening of ministerial oversight over them.
The Bill, which has been under consideration by the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry seeks to among others, amend the Cooperatives Act CAP 112 to strengthen legislation and supervision of all types of Cooperatives, guarantee safety of member savings, promote member empowerment, and improve governance for the sustainability of cooperative enterprises and other related matters.
It also provides for regular audits on the operations of all existing cooperative societies and suggests term limits on the leadership of cooperatives across the country.
Speaking during the tabling of the committee report, Committee chairman and Nansana Municipality MP Robert Kasule noted that Cooperatives contribute to Food Security by helping small scale farmers, cattle keepers and other producers to solve various challenges that confront them in their endeavor to produce food.
He however warned against the rush to institute blanket term limits on the leadership of all cooperative societies across the country, noting that the country has few people with sufficient knowledge and experience of and in cooperatives management, yet the Bill does not only not provide for training in cooperatives development, a cap on the tenure of leaders would deny especially rural-based cooperatives leadership expertise, which is in limited supply.
“Some primary SACCOs like Wazalendo have term limits in their by-laws, which is good for institutionalized cooperatives that have a large pool of expertise. But exceptions should be provided in the law to nurture the growth of small, rural based SACCOs, which rely on a few experienced individuals to lead them,” Sebunya noted.
He said that his Committee had also observed that the financial implication of the bill is inadequately guaranteed by the certificate of financial implication, because the ministry had not gotten additional budget provisions for the implementation of the Bill’s provisions.
In the just passed Ministry of trade budget, Cooperatives Development remains underfunded by shs.8.19 billion, with some of the budget item’s program’s falling under unfunded priorities.
In regard to developing the necessary human resource competencies, the Committee noted that although the Implementation strategy of the National Development Plan II recommended the review upgrading of Kigumba Cooperatives College as a Center of academic Excellence in cooperative skills development, the institution’s infrastructure remains dilapidated, and the Ministry has not presented any plans to revamp it.
As such, the committee recommended that cooperative colleges like Uganda Cooperatives College Kigumba, and Uganda Cooperatives College Tororo should be revived and upgraded in infrastructural and all technical aspects to provide adequate training in the areas of cooperatives, in order to sustain cooperatives development across the country.
It also recommended that the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development should consider the new and expanded mandate of the ministry of cooperatives, and submit to Parliament a realistic certificate of financial implication that reflects government’s commitment to cooperatives development.
Speaking to the motion during plenary, MPs from across the political divide called upon government to expedite the revival of cooperatives, arguing that they should not have been allowed to die in the first place.
“Cooperatives are a driver of development for any society. Once farmers come together in groups, they’re able to negotiate better as they speak with a common voice, and get better proceeds for their produce. So the proposal to revive them and strengthen the ministry (of cooperatives) is highly welcome on my side,” noted Hon. Nyakecho Annet from Tororo North County.
Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi who also doubles as Chairman of the Bugisu Cooperative Union – one of the most enduring Cooperative societies in the country, called for a clause to be inserted in the bill to provide for the return of the cooperative Bank, noting that the present law requires all cooperative societies to deposit their money with the cooperative bank, which is no longer in existence.