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Govt names steering committee to spearhead Co-op Bank revival


Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The dream of reviving the cooperative bank is getting closer to reality as a steering committee is commissioned by the government.

The seven-member committee comprising the cooperative leaders and representatives of top SACCOs has been unveiled with the main objective of kick-starting the process for the establishment of the Uganda National Cooperative Bank.

It will be charged with developing a comprehensive roadmap for the formation of the bank. Chaired by the Uganda Cooperative Alliance, the committee will be charged with researching and studying existing reports about the defunct Cooperative Bank, among other terms of reference.

They will also mobilize moral and financial support from cooperatives and other stakeholders and well-wishers around the country, sensitize and consult farmers and cooperators about the importance of a cooperative bank, according to Austin Nyakubaho Lobby and Advocacy at UCA.

The other members of the committee come from the Uganda Central Cooperative Financial Services, Uganda Cooperative and Savings Union, Walimu, Wazalendo, and Parliamentary SACCOs.

State Minister for Cooperatives, Fredrick Ngobi Gume said the committee should report to the minister on the way forward within three months.

He cautioned the committee and all those involved in the process to ensure that the role of the Cooperative Bank is well explained to avoid misinterpretation of its objectives. This, according to him, calls for cooperation between the committee and the Saccos, which are virtually growing into defacto banks in some places and they continue to succeed.

He said what is important is to popularise the idea of the new bank across all sections of the community so that everyone embraces it.

Major General Sam Kavuma, the chairman of the board of Wazalendo SACCO agreed that there might be apprehension amongst the financial players thinking that the cooperative bank will take their business away from them.

The main idea to sell to the other organizations, especially SACCOs is that the Bank is being formed to be the SACCOs bank which should serve them in a tailored way, while the revenues made by the bank will belong to the cooperators themselves.

The Ivan Asiimwe Secretary General Uganda Cooperative Alliance assured the minister that despite the limited resources, they will do the job in three months, hoping that the new bank starts operations by next year. On the capacity to capitalize on the bank, Asiimwe said that so far the support shown by cooperative societies, political leaders, and farmers is enough indication that funding the new entity will not be an impossibility.

The committee will also review the findings of the Parliamentary Committee on statutory authorities and state enterprises on the closure of banks including the Cooperative Bank. This will be part of the research into what caused the closure of the former cooperative bank.

The bank which was established in the 1960s under the Cooperatives Act was in the early 1990s transformed into a limited company under the Companies Act and in 1999, the Bank of Uganda closed it down over alleged insolvency. However, the cooperative movement insists the cooperative bank of 1964 has never been closed, terming the purported transformation into a limited company illegal and inconsequential to its existence.