Itek Okile cooperative recruits 400 new members after probe on Shs 52b

LIRA – After suspending all its executive members over mismanagement of the cooperative and abuse of office, Itek Okile Rice Growers Cooperative and Saving Society is renewing membership to attract more farmers.

The cooperative had a total of 1,500 members but its executives were involved in financial misappropriation, abuse of office and fraud which prompted the district to fire and dissolve the team steering the cooperative.

Most of the members are rice growers at the government’s irrigation scheme (Olweny Swam Rice Irrigation Scheme) but according to sources, they have started recruiting and renewing memberships of its farmers for a fresh start.

To join as a member, a farmer needs to pay a membership fee of Shs 50,000 and you automatically qualify to participate in all the activities for the day to day running of the cooperative. Currently it has recruited 400 new members.

Seven years ago, under the cooperative, the government channelled Shs 52b to revamp the scheme that had collapsed during the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency.

Part of the money was utilized to rehabilitate the scheme and others were used for setting up stores, administration offices and procuring two tractors. The store has the capacity to accommodate more than 20 tons of rice.

“At the moment, we are busy recruiting new members and preparing fields for planting because the season is almost reaching,” says Alfred Ocen, an interim Chairperson of the cooperative.

The previous executive members were stopped and asked to step aside to pave way for investigation over funds the government channelled. They include Chairperson, Engine Morish Okene, Vice Chairman, Ojede Abenego and Treasurer, Ayugi Eunice.

Before they were fired late last year, there was a special meeting chaired by the District Commercial Officer, Santos Olade to get reports on how funds were utilized after receiving financial mismanagement issues.

The complaints raised by the supervisory team were on the recruitment of professionals (accountant and manager) to manage the cooperatives.

Bonny Ongura, the LC3 Chairperson last year said, the cooperatives had active members but the only missing link was mismanagement of the resources and improper handling of the affairs by non professionals.

“They were just spending money at source, that is why the District Commercial Officer and the district Chairperson (Richard Cox Okello Orik) asked them to step aside,” he says.

But on 2rd March 2, 2022 an insider said, the audit report on the Shs 52b was done and the cooperative is waiting for its details.

“They have not yet given me the report of their findings but I was told it is ready,” said Ongura.

Ocen said, they have recruited a new accountant to manage the finances of the cooperative and hoped to recruit a manager, tractor operators, among others.

“We want to be transparent and clear on whatever we shall do but not to bend the law governing the cooperatives and SACCO,” he said.

Efforts to get comments from the District Commercial Officer, Olade to seek clarity on the details of the report were unsuccessful since his phone contact was off.

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