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Why Sh1trn Kenya Saccos are a ticking time bomb – VIDEO
An increasing number of Kenyan Saccos are reeling under the weight of mismanagement, fraud and bad loans that have put the Sh1 trillion sector on a path of instability that if not reversed could have damaging contagion on the entire economy.
At stake are hundreds of billions of shillings of members’ savings that have either been lost or are at risk of being lost as more and more cases of financially troubled Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (Saccos) come to the fore.
Just three Saccos; Mwalimu, Ekeza and Stima Investment Co-operative, are together estimated to have lost their members upwards of Sh3.6 billion through mismanagement or outright fraud by officials and boards.
With the situation seemingly getting out of hand, the State Department of Co-operatives has called in the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to help in investigating and prosecuting fraudulent officials to protect the savings of an estimated 14 million Kenyans who are Sacco members.
The Commissioner of Co-operatives, Mary Mungai, told the Business Daily that weak governance and outright fraud were the biggest challenge facing the co-operative movement.
The State Department of Co-operatives has formed a special unit, the Ethics Commission for Co-operative Societies (ECCOS), which is involved in tracking fraud in Saccos. Eccos has signed a memorandum of understanding with the EACC to curb fraud in Saccos.
“We want to bring all Saccos under a prudential framework, strengthen the reporting line and ensure sustainability of the sector is credible and guaranteed,” said Ms Mungai. Kenya’s co-operative movement is rated among the best in Africa with over 22,000 registered co-operative societies.
The Saccos employ more than 500,000 Kenyans directly and another 1.5 million indirectly, according to official records.
Sacco savings and deposits are estimated at over Sh732 billion, equivalent to about 30 percent of national savings. The movement had an asset base of over Sh1 trillion and a loan portfolio exceeding Sh700 billion as at the end of 2017.
The government formed the Saccos Sector Regulatory Authority (Sasra) to police deposit-taking co-operatives but this, according to Ms Mungai, has not deterred fraud and mismanagement. About 174 Saccos holding Sh305.3 billion deposits from 3.6 million members are under Sasra’s regulation.
Ms Mungai said her office is working with Sasra and the EACC to address challenges in the sector. Another emerging problem in the sector is the issue of fraudulent people setting up Saccos as personal businesses.
Co-operative societies are currently classified as private entities, which limits the Department of Co-operatives’ power to enforce compliance in governance, procurement and disposal of assets. Sasra chairman Sammy Ruto in the sector report for 2017 identified the need for a deposit insurance facility to spur confidence in the deposit-taking Saccos to compensate members in the event of failures of the institutions.
The Commissioner of Co-operatives last month stopped televangelist-turned-politician David Kariuki Ngare from selling hotels and land belonging to his real estate company to protect Ekeza Sacco members’ savings.
He had planned to dispose of the assets on February 14 through public auction. He had claimed that he would use the money to repay members their claims in excess of Sh1 billion. The televangelist is accused of running the Sacco single-handedly, more of like a personal business, hence putting members’ interests at risk. The Sacco is already under scrutiny by a team appointed by the Commissioner of Cooperatives in December.
Through a Gazette notice published on March 23, 2018, the commissioner cancelled the registration of the Sacco, saying it had failed to meet its objectives. The move prompted Ekeza to move to court.
Ekeza then argued that the move was in breach of rules of natural justice and motivated by malice, and that it jeopardised the business which had collected deposits from some 50,000 members.
But last May, both Ekeza and the commissioner reached an out-of-court deal and the suit was withdrawn.
The issue has now re-emerged on an even bigger scale.
|No of SACCOs||22,000|