Kampala, Uganda: Police’s main savings’ scheme – Exodus Savings and Credit Cooperative society is undergoing a forensic audit, after allegations of improper accountability from the SACCO’s members, theCooperator has learnt.
The SACCO, which boasts of 28000 members, is the Forces’ third biggest financial cooperative in the country, after the Uganda People’s Defense Forces’ Wazalendo SACCO, and the Uganda Prison Services’ SACCO. With savings of up to Shs.200billion,Wazalendo is Uganda’s biggest financial cooperative, while at an assets’ worth of shs.6billion and 9,385 members strong, the Prison Services’ SACCO is not in bad standing either.
But unlike the two, the Police SACCO has for long been beset by controversy, ranging from allegations of improper accountability to members’ failure to have timely access to their savings.
Mr. Joseph Kitandwe, the registrar of cooperatives who ordered the SACCO’s audit says, it had become inevitable:
“We were getting tired of always hearing about their issues. I therefore ordered(the audit) following reports of missing members’ cash. Let all it(the SACCO)’s books be audited afresh,” he told the Cooperator in a telephone Interview.
According to Kitandwe, the SACCO management has never produced “proper” books of accounts since its formation in 2007: “I gave them (top Exodus management) a time frame to have the proper audited books in place. That time has now passed, and the police is yet to respond,” he said.
He attributed some of the inconsistencies in the SACCO’s books of accounts to the turnover of leadership at the SACCO, thanks to routine transfers of staff, some who’re vital for audit.
Asked to comment when he expects feedback from the auditors, Kitandwe said: “I expect all audited books within two weeks’ (by June). This time they must meet the set deadline,”
Two factions at loggerheads
Exodus is not the only Police SACCO. In 1989, the former Police chief Mr. John Kisembo and former head of criminal investigations Mr. Chris Bakiza had formed the Uganda Police Savings Association Limited. Then, 18 years later, in 2007, then Police Chief Kale Kayihura started Exodus Savings and Credit Society. Much as both institutions have as their objective to mobilize savings and give loans to the members at reasonable interest rates to better their livelihoods, the current crisis at Exodus SACCO has left many members disgruntled.
At the heart of the crisis is shs.5billion of member savings, for which Exodus cannot apparently account. The cooperator has learnt that before his unceremonious exit, Kayihura had himself ordered for a forensic audit to establish the circumstances under-which the money went missing. More than a year later, the results of that audit are yet to be made public.
Last month, there was mini-chaos at the Exodus offices when tens of members stormed the SACCO to withdraw cash for the Easter season. On that day, Shs.490 million was withdrawn by members, the cooperator has learnt.
In a statement issued by the deputy police spokesperson Polly Namaye, pointed out that there was not mayhem, but overcrowding by many members from across the country. When contacted, Mr. Henry Kalulu, the Exodus chairman reinforced Namaye’s explanation, attributed the fracas to a number of upcountry members who chose to come to the main headquarters in Kampala for their cash.
According to close sources who chose anonymity to speak comfortably on the matter, the said members stormed the SACCO headquarters after the regional branches where they used to get the SACCO services long ceased to offer loans or any financial services to them.
But Namaye refutes the claim that Exodus’ regional branches are no longer operational. Speaking to the Cooperator, she said the force maintains 10 regional centers across the country, where members can access the SACCO services. The centers are in Hoima, Mbarara, Mbale, Kabarole, Gulu, Moroto, Masaka, Arua, Lira, and now, Kabale, whose branch was opened early this month. Two other branches in Soroti and Iganga are expected to be opened to the members by end of June, she said.
Solving the problem
Following the Easter embarrassment, the Cooperator has established that the IGP, John Martins Okoth Ochola ordered and demanded that the “mess” be sorted out once and for all. As part of “sorting” the “mess,” the cooperator has learnt that the SACCO is in the process of establishing a banking hall, where members will henceforth be lining up like in any other bank, when depositing and withdrawing their savings.