North Kyoga Police warns against new SACCO scam

Police in North Kyoga Region has cautioned the public about a recent scam that specifically targets SACCOs and warned people against giving their money to individuals they do not know personally if they are to avoid falling prey to such fraudsters.

“Across our region, a number of vulnerable individuals and some SACCO members have sadly fallen victim to a complex scam known as ‘Courier Fraud’,” North Kyoga Regional Police Commander, Paul Nkore, said in an interview.

Nkore said that despite efforts to crack down on the cruel fraud that mainly targets SACCOs and strips members of their savings, the number of perpetrators is on the increase in the region.

“We have received a number of reports that SACCOs across the region have been targeted by fraudsters purporting to be State House officials. A total of 32 people have been arrested in connection with the alleged acts of fraud, and investigations remain ongoing,” he said.

Last week, police in Otuke district apprehended four suspected fraudsters for allegedly defrauding members of Otuke United district SACCO.

The four, led by one Monica Adongo according to reports, were moving with a letter purportedly from State House allowing them to operate as a SACCO.

The others are Robinah Akello, a resident of Aloi Sub County; Geoffrey Ap3ello of the same area and Richard Ojok of Adwari Corner, who also allegedly claimed to be the SACCO Coordinator for Otuke.


Christopher Omara, the Otuke Resident District Commissioner, told theCooperator that he received an invitation letter signed by Adongo to attend a meeting but upon consultation, he realized that the SACCO does not exist in the area.

Omara says that the four, who claim to be operating in the districts of Dokolo, Apac, Kwania, Oyam, Moroto, Kotido, and Gulu City, were also collecting Shs 10, 000 Shillings from the SACCO members.

They also claimed to have an office in Kampala at Mapeera House, but upon interrogation, were found fraudsters, the RDC revealed.

“That means the Cooperatives are at risk of fraud. We urge SACCO members not to contribute any money to any individual or organization that they are not sure is genuine,” he appealed.

In December last year, security personnel in Kwania district arrested eight suspected fraudsters for extorting Shs 42.5m from Ikwera SACCO members under the guise of offering them juicy jobs.


Edith Basalirwa, the Kwania District Police Commander (DPC), asked the public to always report unscrupulous characters to the authorities immediately.

“Please help us to reinforce the message that police officers or your bank will never ask you to hand over money or transfer funds. If you receive a call like this, do not interact – hang up and report it immediately,” Basalirwa said.

North Kyoga RPC, Nkore, reaffirmed the police’s commitment to dismantle the scam network by recruiting members of the community to be its eyes and ears on the ground.

“SACCO members and other members of the public can also seek guidance from the District Commercial Officers and the offices of the Resident District Commissioners before transacting in any business. This will save them from being taken advantage of by fraudsters,” he said.

According to the 2019 Annual Police Crime Report, North Kyoga registered the highest number of fraud cases in the country in 2019.

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SACCOs urged to embrace tech, digital lending

Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) have been urged to embrace the latest technological innovations in order to catch up with market trends and safeguard their market share.

Speaking during a one-week training of Ikwera SACCO Members, held in Aduku town council, Kwania district, the former Land Minister Daniel Omara Atubu rallied the SACCO Members to join the digital lending space, especially with the coming of mobile money.

“Technology is reshaping the financial industry forcing SACCOs to match up with the trend or risk being left out. Let’s utilize mobile money for conducting business and embrace digital loans to provide quick cash to members through mobile money wallets. Entry into digital loan platforms will safeguard the market flooded by independent digital lenders such as Commercial banks,” Omara, an Economist, noted.

Geoffrey Okello, a senior accountant at the Uganda College of Commerce, Aduku, underscored the security that digital transactions offer.

“It would protect you from the danger of being targeted by thugs after withdrawing your money from the bank,” he said.

For his part, Kwania District Commercial Officer, Patrick Bura, urged the SACCO members to appoint knowledgeable leaders who can guide them on how to make the best use of their resources.

Ikwera SACCO Ltd Manager, Robert Odur, said plans are underway to integrate the SACCO members into available digital platforms, noting that it would be one way to extend financial inclusion to the unbanked.

“We need innovative ways to bring the unbanked population into the formal financial system,” Odur said.

Ikwera SACCO Ltd., established in 2009 is fully registered with the Ministry of Trade Industry and Cooperatives. However, despite having 1,037 members and growing, and a current portfolio of over Shs 300m, the SACCO is as yet not enrolled on the Mobile money system.

The Uganda Finscope survey for 2018- a periodic study of the country’s financial sector since 2006-indicates a sharp increase in the number of Ugandans who use financial services.

The total value of mobile money transactions grew from Shs 37.4 tn ($9.7 bn) in June 2016 to Shs 79.8 tn (USD 20.7 bn) in FY 2019/2020, according to Bank of Uganda data.

The survey also found that 50 percent of savers, which works out to five million adults, save informally with village savings and credit associations and trusted community members.

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Microfinance minister to promote Emyooga products

The Minister of State for Micro-Finance & Small Enterprises, Hon. Haruna Kasolo Kyeyune has pledged to create a department within the Microfinance Support Centre to expand the market base for products produced under the Emyooga scheme.

Kasolo made the pledge last Friday while visiting Emyooga SACCOs in Mbarara after Immaculate Tumuhimbise, the Chairperson of Mbarara City South Women Entrepreneurs’ SACCO raised concerns over potential overproduction by Emyooga enterprises with no ready market for their products.

“People should not produce and fail to find a market. I will propose to the cabinet that funds be set aside to help in marketing and research for Emyooga products,” the minister promised.

He encouraged the entrepreneurs to be innovative and to produce attractive products that will be competitive in the international market.

“I implore Emyooga members to be innovative and creative such that when you make a product, say a bag, it is as good in quality as those made from established markets like China.”

He also cautioned prudence in managing their capital resources.

“You are not supposed to overspend; create cheap capital within the informal sector because you may find it difficult to access credit from commercial banks,” Kasolo advised.

Robert Mpakibi, the Assistant Registrar of co-operatives confirmed that 32 out of 36 registered Emyooga SACCOs in the district have already accessed money under the initiative.

Impressive savings

Meanwhile, Phiona Aheebwa, the Front Desk Officer at the Microfinance Support Centre Ltd (MSC) was impressed by the saving culture demonstrated by Mbarara City South Women Entrepreneurs SACCO.

The 202-member SACCO has already saved Shs 38m since November 18, last year, bringing its total capital to Shs 68m after adding the Shs 30m Emyooga cash from MSC, revealed SACCO Chairperson, Tumuhimbise.

Aheebwa appealed to members to maintain the savings culture and promised that if they are consistent, they could benefit from a bigger loan facility from the MSC in the future.

“If members keep taking and paying their loans well, as MSC we shall make sure that we add more money in the project at a small interest rate, depending on the performance,” she said.

Aheebwa recommended that Mbarara City South Women Entrepreneurs SACCO apply for more money from MSC should the need arise.

“If you need more money, whether it’s 100m or 300m, I will recommend that you receive it from the Microfinance Support Centre. What matters is the members to grow but not for the SACCO to build magnificent buildings,” says Aheebwa

She encouraged the Commercial Officers to continue training Emyooga members for the program to benefit the entire country.

Mbarara district, comprising of Kashari North and South, received a total of Shs 1.12 bn to cater for 36 SACCOs at constituency level, while Mbarara City received Shs 1 bn also for 36 SACCOs.

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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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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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