Hoima Sacco, Government clash over Shs 50m loan

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.

SACCO PROGRESS

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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New Sacco to give out Cheap loans in Hoima

The newly launched KASSOBA SACCO is on course to open with offers of cheap loans to members of Kabalega Secondary School Old Boys Association (KASSOBA).

The official launch was on April 3 at Kolping hotel in the western Hoima town.

According to Samuel Mugisa, the interim chairperson of KASSOBA SACCO, the old boys resolved to form the SACCO in 2018 during the annual general meeting.

“The SACCO was supposed to kick off in 2020 but we were disorganized by COVID-19. But when we met again in March this year we resolved to start,” Mugisa said.

He said the SACCO has 90 registered members already and hopes to shore up the numbers to 300 members within the next two years.

“Members are buying each share at Shs 20,000. Saving has also commenced, we hope to have saved at least Shs 500 million in two years. This is going to be the ladder to the members’ economic development,” Mugisa said.

“Many of our boys have lost properties due to the high interest rates from banks and financial institutions but I am optimistic that with this SACCO, our members will be able to access loans at an affordable interest rate. We want our SACCO to be vibrant like the (army’s) Wazalendo SACCO,” he stressed.

Mugisa said in the future they will allow outsiders to access conditional loans.

“Worldwide SACCOs have been the engine of development and many people have prospered through them,” he added.

In a speech at the SACCO launching, John Tumusiime, the district commercial officer of Hoima, took members through the process of forming, sustaining, and developing a SACCO.

“If your SACCO is to move from one level to another, you have to be with a transparent leadership and also ensure that record-keeping and accountability are key. Also never leave the entire burden to the leadership. You members always participate in the day-to-day SACCO activities,” he noted.

The old boys also elected an interim committee to steer the SACCO. Samuel Mugisa is the chairperson deputized by David Muhumuza. Charles Baisa is the treasurer, Alfred Kusiima is the general secretary and Ronald Murungi is a mobilizer.

KASSOBA, which formed the SACCO was started by the old boys of Kabalega Secondary School in the western district of Masindi in the 1980s.

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Long-dormant sacco in Masindi bounces back

A long-dormant savings and cooperative credit society has been revived.

The Masindi Savings and Cooperative Credit Society Limited has been revived by members after a two-year lull.

The SACCO membership comprises mainly active and retired civil servants of the Masindi district local government.

On April 1, Moses Kalyegira, the Masindi district commercial officer, convened a special general meeting that elected a new board.

Addressing the meeting at the council chambers, Kalyegira said the SACCO had been dormant for two years because the board chairperson resigned under unclear circumstances. After her resignation other board and SACCO members lost interest in the association, Kalyegira said.

“This is a special meeting because the board has failed to perform its duties. I have engaged the former chairperson Ruth Kisakye three times to convene a meeting so she could hand it over officially but in vain. I have decided that I chair this meeting so that the SACCO can put in place a new board to start conducting business because the business couldn’t go on without signatories,” he explained.

Kalyegira said he convened the meeting because he couldn’t just sit and let the SACCO collapse. He wondered why SACCOs of people with little financial knowledge were thriving and theirs full of professionals in finance was limping.

“People have been unable to access services and yet they have money on the SACCO account because board members lost interest. Let’s forget that and start a new chapter today. I have been receiving many complaints from members about their money being idle in the bank and being deducted,” Kalyegira said.

The outgoing board treasurer, Charles Musinguzi, and the vice-chairperson Godfrey Baharagate attended the meeting.

According to Kalyegira, the SACCO, which started in 2003, at one time had about 300 members before those numbers dropped to just 100 active members currently.

“The purpose of its formation was to enhance a saving culture amongst members and to offer loans at a low-interest rate to civil servants,” he noted.

Charles Musinguzi, the outgoing treasurer told members that Shs 20 million was loaned out. He said the SACCO has Shs 6.5 million on the account. He also said there’s a time savings totaled Shs 70 million.

“Some people are willing to pay back our money but they have not done so because we have not been active. This is the time to forget the past and set a new agenda,” Musinguzi said.

He said some monies may be difficult to recover.

“The mode of recovery and saving was an automatic deduction from the salaries. Recovering this money might also be a challenge because some civil servants no longer work with us,” he said.

Elections

During the elections presided over by Moses Kalyegira, Ibrahim Nasur, the senior assistant secretary for the Kyatiri town council, was elected as the board chairperson, Charles Musinguzi, the retired personnel officer, is the new secretary and Patrick Okise, the principal internal auditor, is the treasurer.

Other board members include; Prudence Alituha, the principal fisheries officer, Godfrey Bahemuka, the district community development officer, James Mugoya, the lands officer, and Oliver Mabeho, a teacher.

The supervisory committee has David Baguma, the chief finance officer, as its chairperson while Joseph Kabubi and Mary Birungi were elected as members.

In his inaugural speech, Ibrahim Nasur said, “I am one of the people who had lost interest. This is a SACCO for technocrats. How can it fail?”

“My first agenda is to ensure that people’s money is recovered. I will also follow up to see whether the money deducted automatically for saving and repayment is remitted to the SACCO,” he stressed.

Patrick Okise, the new treasurer, urged people who had lost interest to come back.

“We need to wake up now and revive this SACCO because it can give us loans at a low interest. Every day we are exploited by banks and other financial institutions who give us loans at over 40% interest and yet we can do it ourselves at a low interest. We need to wake up now.”Okise said.

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Cooperative slashes fees to attract new members

To shore up its numbers, Lira Diocese Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited has slashed its membership fee from Shs 50,000 to Shs 30,000 to encourage registration of new members with minimal fees.

In a speech at the recent annual general meeting (AGM) held at the Apostolic Social Centre in Lira City, Cyprian Okello, the cooperative’s vice-chairperson, said many people had failed to register because they couldn’t afford the registration fee of Shs 50,000.

“We are forming the central mobilization committee. We shall ensure that each and every parish forms a mobilization committee that will include the catechist, parish priest, and the key people to strengthen mobilization, we want people everybody to understand the benefit of joining a cooperative,” he said.

So far the cooperative has 150 members. It was formed by Sanctus Lino Wanok, the Bishop of Lira Diocese in 2019, to improve the livelihoods of Christians in the nine districts of the Lango sub-region.

Patrick Vincent Muge, a member of the cooperative, said to succeed, the cooperative should engage only able and willing people to carry out Sacco activities.

Muge also urged the leadership to carry out more mobilization of Sacco members.

Father John Bosco Oryema, a member of Alito Catholic parish was excited by the reduction of the membership fees, saying it will encourage women to participate in the cooperative.

“The reduction will give avenues for women to join the cooperative, most women spend their money on running the day-to-day family affairs but now the fee reduction is an open chance for them to join the cooperate and save money to grow,” he noted.

Rt. Rev. Sanctus Lino Wanok, the founder of the cooperative, rallied the public to join the cooperative to alleviate poverty.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic that negatively affected businesses, the time is now for people to head towards a direction that will make them easily assist one another, cooperate in business enterprises and alleviate poverty,” he said.

The man of God nudged the clergy to mobilize the community to join the cooperative to increase household income and improve their livelihoods.

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Kabarole: Kitojo Care SACCO holds first AGM after COVID-19 setback

Kitojo Care SACCO in Kabarole district has held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this week, after missing out on holding one in 2020.

While cooperatives are required by law to hold an AGM every year, Kitojo Care SACCO, like many others countrywide, was unable to fulfill this obligation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in a temporary suspension of all manner of public gatherings.

Moreover, the SACCO saw its savings and loan portfolios take a hit as most of its members were constrained in conducting their business as a result of restrictions imposed by the government to limit the spread of the pandemic.

“Last year was a very hard one; the majority of our members are Boda Boda riders and others work at tour sites which were not working during the lockdown, so most of the businesses were on standstill. This affected our savings, loan repayment, and loan portfolio,” said Fortunate Kusemererwa, the SACCO’s Manager.

Consequently, he revealed, by year’s end the loan repayment rate had dropped from 92 to 85 percent, and the loan portfolio reduced from Shs 634m to Shs 464m

Kusemererwa said that Kitojo Care SACCO, which was started in 2007 with the aim of increasing members’ household incomes and improve on their saving culture, has since last year been faced by the challenge of the majority of its members being dormant, “to the extent that they cannot even afford to save Shs 10,000 per month.”

Taking a toll

The slowdown in the SACCO’s momentum has taken its toll on some of the developmental projects that it had recently undertaken.

For instance, Kusemererwa disclosed that the SACCO had in 2019 embarked on a project to construct its own office premises after squatting for several years at those of Kitojo Integrated Development Association (KIDA), its mother organization.

“KIDA has been hosting us for all these years, but in 2019, we decided to start constructing our own offices because members have since increased and cannot fit in the little space we are currently occupying,” he said.

However, due to the financial difficulties from the last year, they have not been able to continue with construction works.

“We had hoped to complete our office last year, but due to the lockdown, we had to halt it. Savings have drastically reduced, loan recovery is still poor and our members no longer take loans,” he explained.

AGM resolutions

Kusemererwa said this year’s AGM resolved that each member should contribute Shs 1,500 per month towards the completion of their office block, which he believes is the only option that will save them.

The Kabarole District Commercial Officer (DCO), John Kabango, who attended the AGM, advised members to reacquaint themselves with the reasons why they joined cooperatives in the first place so that they can enjoy the most benefits from them.

“Some people just join SACCOs to borrow money and run away without paying back. You need to know that these SACCOs are voluntary and are meant to help people improve their standard of living,” Kabango said.

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Kabarole: Kitojo Care SACCO holds first AGM after COVID-19 setback

Kitojo Care SACCO in Kabarole district has held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this week, after missing out on holding one in 2020.

While cooperatives are required by law to hold an AGM every year, Kitojo Care SACCO, like many others countrywide, was unable to fulfill this obligation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in a temporary suspension of all manner of public gatherings.

Moreover, the SACCO saw its savings and loan portfolios take a hit as most of its members were constrained in conducting their business as a result of restrictions imposed by the government to limit the spread of the pandemic.

“Last year was a very hard one; the majority of our members are Boda Boda riders and others work at tour sites which were not working during the lockdown, so most of the businesses were on standstill. This affected our savings, loan repayment, and loan portfolio,” said Fortunate Kusemererwa, the SACCO’s Manager.

Consequently, he revealed, by year’s end the loan repayment rate had dropped from 92 to 85 percent, and the loan portfolio reduced from Shs 634m to Shs 464m

Kusemererwa said that Kitojo Care SACCO, which was started in 2007 with the aim of increasing members’ household incomes and improve on their saving culture, has since last year been faced by the challenge of the majority of its members being dormant, “to the extent that they cannot even afford to save Shs 10,000 per month.”

Taking a toll

The slowdown in the SACCO’s momentum has taken its toll on some of the developmental projects that it had recently undertaken.

For instance, Kusemererwa disclosed that the SACCO had in 2019 embarked on a project to construct its own office premises after squatting for several years at those of Kitojo Integrated Development Association (KIDA), its mother organization.

“KIDA has been hosting us for all these years, but in 2019, we decided to start constructing our own offices because members have since increased and cannot fit in the little space we are currently occupying,” he said.

However, due to the financial difficulties from the last year, they have not been able to continue with construction works.

“We had hoped to complete our office last year, but due to the lockdown, we had to halt it. Savings have drastically reduced, loan recovery is still poor and our members no longer take loans,” he explained.

AGM resolutions

Kusemererwa said this year’s AGM resolved that each member should contribute Shs 1,500 per month towards the completion of their office block, which he believes is the only option that will save them.

The Kabarole District Commercial Officer (DCO), John Kabango, who attended the AGM, advised members to reacquaint themselves with the reasons why they joined cooperatives in the first place so that they can enjoy the most benefits from them.

“Some people just join SACCOs to borrow money and run away without paying back. You need to know that these SACCOs are voluntary and are meant to help people improve their standard of living,” Kabango said.

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Nine SACCOs cleared to receive Emyooga funds in Masindi

Nine out of 54 SACCOs in Masindi district have been cleared to receive the long-awaited Emyooga cash, Moses Kalyegira, Masindi district’s Commercial Officer has revealed.

Kalyegira says the nine, which hail from the three constituencies of Masindi municipality, Bujenje county, and Buruli had met all the requirements for receiving the money and had already received Shs 132m so far.

The DCO was responding to widespread complaints by several SACCOs over delayed disbursement of the promised Emyooga cash, with many reporting that they had started receiving the money on their accounts in December but were unable to access it.

“Clearing of SACCOs is still ongoing; they could not all be cleared at the same time,” Kalyegira explained.

He went on to list the other obstacles standing in the way of some SACCOs’ receiving the money.

“You should know that you must have saved 30% of the money you are asking for. Also, the bank has to clear the resolutions by the SACCO before giving you the money. The bank’s legal team has to look into them and send them to the ministry of trade for verification before giving you a go-ahead to withdraw the money,” said Kalyegira.

The official handover of the money was launched by Masindi Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Rose Kirabira, who warned the beneficiaries against misusing the funds.

“I advise you to use this capital to move out of poverty and also develop the culture of saving. This is a push-up for your SACCOs but not money for eating,” Kirabira said.

She also encouraged the beneficiaries to report any individuals engaged in mismanaging the SACCOs’ monies so that action can be taken against them.

Cate Gafa, the Masindi Municipality Town Clerk, implored the members to use the money effectively to enable them to attract more support from the government.

“This can only be achieved when there is a good saving culture and financial discipline,” she cautioned.

The beneficiaries who turned up for the launch expressed happiness, saying they had lost hope in the program.

“Some members had even threatened to withdraw their savings because they were not seeing any future in staying with the program,” explained a beneficiary who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Co-operators condemn ‘confused’ regulatory regime

Co-operators in Western Uganda have condemned what some referred to as a “confused” regulatory regime resulting from the enactment of various laws meant to regulate the operation of cooperatives, SACCOS in particular, within the country.

The co-operators expressed their discontent during a regional forum on the changing regulatory environment for SACCOs in Uganda. The forum, which was held on Wednesday last week, brought together more than 100 leaders of cooperatives in Western Uganda, including board members, supervisory committee members, members of vetting committees, and other management staff.

According to Dr. Sylvester Ndiroramukama, Chief Executive Officer, Uganda Co-operative Savings and Credit Union (UCSCU), the discussion focused on how to harmonize the different regulations that affect the operations of SACCOs in Uganda.

“We want to bring to the attention of our members the implications of the regulations in the gazetted various sections of the Cooperative Societies Act and the Tier IV Microfinance Institutions and Moneylenders Act, 2016,” Ndiroramukama explained.

Besides the Cooperative Societies Act Cap. 112 by which all cooperatives are governed, SACCOs are now also governed by the Tier IV Microfinance and MoneyLenders Act, 2016, and the Microfinance Deposit-Taking Institutions Act, 2003.

The law further subjects SACCOs to the governance of-the Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Agency (UMRA) and Bank of Uganda, by which they are required to be licensed, in addition to being under the oversight of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies, under the Ministry of Trade Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC).

“Suffocating cooperatives”

Elaborating on the regulatory situation of SACCOs in Uganda, participants at the forum argued that the stringent regulations subjecting the sector to a variety of actors could have the effect of “suffocating” cooperatives.

Ndiroramukama says that as co-operators, they are advocating for a single regulator for the sector, and an independent authority in charge of licensing, regulating, and supervising SACCOs.

“We don’t care who that single regulator would be but what we want is for the SACCOs to enjoy the benefits of backward and forward linkages,” he said.

Ndiroramukama anticipates the collapse of several SACCOs in the country if the issue of multiple regulations in the sector is not sorted out in time.

“Definitely if the status quo remains, SACCOs will die and this is why we are bringing it to the attention of the government that the current laws conflict against each other,” Ndiroramukama said.

Stephen Bongonzya, the vice-chairman of UCSCU, revealed that the different regulators are jostling for control over SACCOS, something he thinks could be injurious to the cooperatives. He too believes the legal regime as it is could spell disaster for some SACCOs.

“The Microfinance Deposit-Taking Institutions Act regulates companies meaning that some of the SACCOs that cross will automatically become companies, and you can never be allowed to slide back. In case of issues, Bank of Uganda will either advise you to merge, be bought or end up collapsing, which is the reason we are insisting that they remain as SACCOs,” Bongonzya explained.

Sort us out, or else…

Some of the attendees at the forum threatened to stage a strike if the law is not rectified to have a single regulator for all cooperatives.

“We had several discussions and made recommendations, but our submissions were not considered when amending the Act? Are we now orphans? If we don’t have any ministry that is concerned for our affairs, this is the right time to start a strike to retain our identity as SACCOs,” a tough-talking staffer of Kitaga SACCO fumed.

However, the CEO of UCSCU, urged the co-operators to desist from any talk of violence, saying they will use non-violent processes to bring about the desired harmony within the cooperative laws.

“We are not going to strike because as co-operators we don’t believe in violence; we are democratic and law-abiding institutions, which is why we use the approach of engaging and petitioning, which doesn’t involve using excessive force or violence,” Ndiroramukama said.

Rev. Can. Duncans Mugumya, the Board Chairman, Jubilee SACCO (West Ankole Diocese), also urged calm, calling instead for engagement with lawmakers, saying, “The existing law was passed by human beings and can just as well be changed be the same.”

Prominent among the issues raised by participants were the number of licensing and supervisory agencies, and the mix-up of funds, among others. that were petitioned to the speaker of parliament.

The UCSCU officials reported that they had petitioned Parliament about the issues of concern to cooperatives.

“We have raised the contradictions with the Office of the Speaker of Parliament through a petition, and she has already written to the relevant committees of ministries to ensure that they harmonize these inconsistencies in the two laws,” Bongonzya said.

Spilled milk

However, a cross-section of the co-operators in attendance likened their peers’ complaints to crying over spilled milk, saying the time for protest is now long past, given that the offending law is already in place.

“I think we should comply with the law. We should have defied when it was still in preparation, but now that it’s already amended it’s a challenge to overcome. We can instead adopt amicable means to resolve the gaps within it,” argued Charles Muramuzi, one of the participants.

Muramuzi also opined that some of the resistance to the new legal regime is born of fear by SACCOs that have till now been non-compliant with existing regulation.

“The problem is that we are fearing change vis-à-vis compliance because these new regulations are very strict with regard to compliance, and yet we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing as SACCOs. But if we accept these laws, then we can benchmark and grow like any other successful cooperatives,” he said.

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Kakumiro bee farmers resolve to form SACCO

Bee farmers in Kakumiro district have resolved to form a SACCO in a bid to address some of the challenges they face in their enterprise.

According to Joseph Serugo, a bee farmer and conservationist with Kayirebwa Chimpanzee Conservancy, since 2010 he and other farmers have been using traditional methods to make beehives and process their honey, but they want to adopt modern ones come April.

In addition, the farmers intend to set up a SACCO with a central collection point where members can bulk their honey that they would then sell at a fair price.

“Plans are in high gear to organize for the modern beehives and establish a SACCO so that things like marketing improve. We are currently earning very little for our honey,” Serugo told theCooperator.

“We are currently earning very little for our honey,” Serugo told the Cooperator.

Serugo, who says he currently earns about Shs 500,000 each season from honey, believes the increased investment in the business will attract more customers and boost his earnings.

Sarah Katono, also a bee farmer and member of the same group, says a SACCO would save them from having to borrow from external lenders who tend to levy prohibitively high-interest rates.

“I want to be able to purchase machines to harvest wax from my bees and add value to it by making items like candles. I am unable to do that currently because the money I get is not enough,” Katono said.

She also hopes that the SACCO can help members push for better honey prices and improve their livelihood.

“I sell my honey at between Shs 5,000- Shs 10,000 to middlemen and also individual customers who buy for their own consumption but I would like to earn more from it,” she said.

Meanwhile, William Lalobo, a private conservationist at Aswa Falls Conservancy and a beekeeper, plans to extract bee venom for export.

“I have already received the machines and will soon begin extraction of the venom,” Lalobo says.

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