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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Hoima milk traders urged to form SACCO for value addition

Milk traders and vendors in Hoima oil city have been challenged to form Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (SACCOs) if they want to have one voice and develop their businesses.

The call was sounded by Annette Kyomuhangi the Principal Dairy Inspector and head of the Midwest region for the Dairy Development Authority (DDA) during an engagement with Milk traders and vendors in Hoima town on Thursday.

The engagement was aimed at equipping the milk handlers with the skills required to ensure that Ugandan milk continues to meet the East African standards on raw cow milk, EAS67.

Kyomuhangi also pointed out the benefits the milk handlers could enjoy if they organized themselves into a SACCO, one of whose goals would be to assist members to add value to their product in order to tap into the wider market.

“Basically we want the people in the dairy sector in Hoima and other districts to position themselves to tap into opportunities that are coming with the oil and gas sector. They must learn to add value and transform raw milk into other products, but they can only achieve this if they are organized,” she said.

She was also optimistic that forming a SACCO would not only help the milk vendors meet their financial needs but provide guidance on how to run a successful run their business and spearhead dairy development activities in the area.

“Through a SACCO, the government would also be able to support them in different ways such as training, loans, and other financial support.”

Sub-standard milk

During the training, it was observed that the majority of the milk traders and vendors in the district routinely failed to meet the milk handling standards.

“Most milk vendors and traders in the area do not have the appropriate equipment to manage the milk, and they do not keep records of analysis, which means that the milk they sell to consumers is not tested,” Kyomuhangi said in an interview.

She explained that some crooked milk vendors have a habit of adulterating milk by either adding water to increase its quantity or adding certain additives to boost its thickness.

Elizabeth Ahimbisibwe, one of the DDA officials, challenged the milk handlers to acquire machines such as Pasteurizers and lactometers to help them to manage milk quality.

She, too, pointed to cooperation as one way by which members can pool together resources and get the relatively costly equipment.

“You need to acquire these machines if you are to keep milk standards; I know some of these machines are expensive but if you get organized through a SACCO or an association you will afford them,” she advised.

James Bigirwenkya, a milk trader in Hoima central business area welcomed the idea of forming a SACCO and expressed dismay over the widespread adulteration of milk in the area, a challenge he blamed on the absence of regulations on the ground.

“One of our challenges is disunity. A cup of milk should go for 800 shillings, but you will find someone selling it at 500 he or she has added water to the milk. This is because we lack a local body to monitor and regulate us,” Bigirwenkya said.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Ugandan milk production is largely dominated by small-scale farmers who own over 90 percent of the national cattle population.

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Oyam: Emyooga beneficiaries demand business skills training

Beneficiaries of the Presidential Initiative on Wealth and Job Creation in Oyam district are seeking business skills training to guarantee the success of the program.

The demands from the groups came shortly after the government disbursed more than Shs 1 bn to facilitate the Emyooga initiative in Oyam.

Emyooga was introduced in 2019 to offer seed capital to Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) groups across the country.

The government earmarked a total of Shs 260 bn to be expended on groups of Ugandan entrepreneurs from18 clusters. Each of the successful groups comprising a minimum of 30 members is entitled to Shs 30m in seed capital.

But the beneficiaries in Oyam district say that although they need the money, they require adequate knowledge in entrepreneurship and business management if the projects they are to start with the funds are to be sustainable.

Geoffrey Awio, a member of Loro United Motorist SACCO Group says members need to be equipped with skills that will enable them to use the money effectively.

Similarly, Stella Adyero, a member of Noteber Tailoring Group in Oporowie Village appealed to the area Community Development Officers to plan for thorough training of recipients of the Emyooga funds so as to mitigate failures.

“Many of the government projects like youth livelihoods have failed due to lack of knowledge. The CDO (Community Development Officer) and the District Commercial Officer (DCO) should offer us training that will acquaint us with business skills for the success of the project,” she said.

Otwal Sub-County Chairperson, Semmy Akello says the local leadership network is keeping tabs on the line officers to ensure successful implementation of the different projects being undertaken by the selected beneficiary groups.

“We have different beneficiary groups including produce dealers, fish farmers, and motorists. As a Sub-County, with our extension officers on board, we are committed to ensuring that the project is a success,” Akelli said.

She conceded the importance of the requested-for business management training and promised that training opportunities would be organized for willing groups.

Similarly, Nelson Adea Akar, the District Chairperson, pledged to rally the needed support towards the training of the project beneficiaries so that they put the money to good use, alleviate poverty, and improve their livelihoods.

“We shall make sure that the money reaches them, and that they utilize it well. On behalf of the community, we shall monitor to ensure the money serves the intended purpose so that it can benefit the intended beneficiaries,” he said in an interview.

However, Jillian Akulu, the Oyam Resident District Commissioner (RDC), warned groups against engaging in influence peddling and bribery to quicken the process of accessing the funds.

There are already 36 assessed SACCOs for the 18 categories of beneficiaries for the Job and Wealth Creation Initiative. They were selected across the two constituencies of Oyam North and Oyam South respectively.

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Masindi Crime Preventers form SACCO

Crime preventers in Masindi district have formed a SACCO as one way of improving their economic status.

According to Musa Kabalega, the Chairperson Tukurakuranize Saving and Credit Society Limited, they formed the SACCO on the advice of President Yoweri Museveni.

“We got this idea from the president who advised us to form a SACCO to enable us to get support from the government. He was addressing us at Lugogo cricket Oval in 2018 and pledged to support every SACCO with Shs 100 million,” said Kabalega.

Museveni has on several occasions encouraged Ugandans to form SACCOs through which they can be supported financially by the government.

To date, the 125-member SACCO has received Shs 10 million from the government, which it has started loaning out to members.

Kabalega, who also doubles as the Regional Coordinator for Crime Preventers in Bunyoro sub Region, has big plans for the future.

“Our dream is to open up a SACCO in at least in every sub-county. We have crime preventers in every village and this will help our members benefit from government and also develop a savings culture,” he said.

Masindi district has four divisions, four town councils, and 10 sub-counties and Kabalega says that have crime preventers in all of them. This implies that 18 Crime Preventers’ SACCOs could potentially be opened up across the district.

Training needed

Kabalega also appealed to relevant organizations and government to equip them with knowledge on how to run SACCOs noting that most of them have inadequate knowledge on the daily activities of SACCOs.

“Many SACCOs and Cooperatives are failing to thrive because both leaders and members are lacking the necessary knowledge. The training we get from our district officials is inadequate since they don’t give us enough time; it would be good if other organizations and the ministry in charge of cooperatives could also come in,” he said.

About Crime Preventers

According to Human Rights Watch, Crime preventers are “a volunteer force of civilians recruited and managed by police to report on and prevent crime in cooperation with the police and communities.”

The force was formed in 2013 and, at its height in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential elections, comprised of more than 1.5 million members, according to Police figures.

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One year later, Cooperatives struggling to emerge from COVID-induced slump

Almost a year after Uganda first imposed several restrictions aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19, many cooperatives are still struggling to get back to their feet despite being open for business for many months now.

In a series of interviews with leaders of top cooperative societies in Western Uganda, theCooperator has learnt that for most of them business remains slow, while others totter on the leeway side of collapse.

Edmond Sajabi, the Manager Kakoba-Mbarara SACCO reports that a stock-taking of the past year indicates that the economic impact of the pandemic hampered the performance of SACCOs.

“Remember, during the total lockdown, restrictions on movement meant that most of our members could not report to their cooperative premises to save, resulting in a reduction in savings,” he said.

A moratorium on most businesses also meant that members who had taken out loans were unable to pay up since they were not working anymore.

“The closure of businesses led to increased defaulting on loans and low loan recovery. For instance, schools were closed yet the operators had acquired loans. This means the amount of interest they had to pay also increased and yet they were not in position to do so,”

Citing the case of Kakoba-Mbarara SACCO, Sajabi revealed that the financial cooperative only managed to collect only Shs 609m in total savings.

“We had estimated that we would collect savings totalling to 649 million but by the end of 2020, we only managed to get 609 million. Our loan portfolio target was 1.5 billion but we only realised 1.2 billion at the end of the financial year because people were not taking loans; businesses were closed and you could not risk giving a person who is not working a loan,” said Sajabi.

The veteran co-operator predicts that the liquidity constraints facing SACCOs in the wake of the COVID-induced slump will force some to close in the years to come.

“Some cooperatives no longer have the capital to meet operational expenses such as rent and staff salaries, which directly affects the workers. Others have even terminated their employees’ contracts,” Sajabi said.

John Rutakirwa, Operations Manager at BESANIA SACCO, confirmed that the closure of businesses due to the pandemic injured most cooperatives in Mbarara.

“Cooperatives entirely depend on their members for financing, so when most of the businesses closed it left most of the cooperative societies in a liquidity crisis,” Rutakirwa said.

Rutakirwa revealed that BESANIA SACCO had not emerged unscathed from the pandemic, registering a 60% increase in default rate due to hiccups being faced by members’ businesses.

He appreciated government’s decision to gradually loosen restrictions on businesses, thereby allowing cooperative activities to resume.

Mzee Eliezar Ariho, a farmer, told theCooperator that COVID-19 had affected his savings momentum with EBO SACCO in Mbarara.

“I used to save over two hundred thousand shillings per day from my farm, but since February 2020 I rarely take my money to the SACCO. I even fear to apply for a loan because the little we get now is only for survival,” he says.

Ariho adds that the drastic drop in crop prices during the pandemic had stifled his dream of expanding his banana plantation into a model farm in Mbarara district.

“It’s not that I lacked the expertise, but how would you improve on the plantation when a bunch of bananas costs three thousand shillings? How would you improve the dairy farm when Kenya blocked the exportation of cattle products from Uganda?” he asks.

Yosia Bagabo, Chairman, Kabura farmers’ Co-operative society, says attributes the low milk prices during COVID-19 to closure of borders, thereby affecting access to neighbouring markets like Kenya.

“The first lockdown affected us so much because we were stuck with 60,000 litres of milk which we used to supply to Pearl Dairies every day. Given that borders were closed, they stopped taking our milk for almost 10 days, causing losses to our dairy farmers and exploitation by private buyers and middle men because they had no alternative of selling that milk on a large scale,” Bagabo explained.

Hope of recovery

Nevertheless, co-operators are hopeful that with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, sanity within the sector has started to be restored.

“Since May 2020, there has been a notable improvement especially in terms of loan recovery that stands at 65% unlike in March, April, and May 2020 when we only secured 12%,” Sajabi said, in reference to Kakoba-Mbarara SACCO, adding:

“People are now coming to save, get loans and new members opening accounts as well.”

He appealed to government to prioritise vaccination for businesses that have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

“Some of the closed businesses like schools should be allowed to vaccinate their pupils and students and open. Bars should also be allowed to resume operations,” Sajabi said.

He also proposed institution of a support fund for such businesses in addition to directing financial institutions to hold off on demanding loan repayments from them until they get back to their feet.

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