A well-orchestrated scheme, manipulation and collusion. These are the tactics former directors at the ailing Moi University Savings Credit Cooperative Society (Musco) allegedly used to swindle its members of millions of shillings.
The investors are not sure if they will ever recover their hard-earned cash after years of pumping monies into the once-vibrant and most-envied sacco in the country.
From hopeful savers to demonstrating beggars, members of Musco have become disillusioned with their sacco that is on the brink of collapse.
In 1988, Moi University staff joined hands and formed a sacco to empower themselves economically. It drew membership from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Masinde Muliro, Maasai Mara and Kabianga universities.
Life was good for members at the time as most banks did not offer credit facilities and workers relied heavily on the saccos to meet their financial obligations.
“We would apply for a loan in the morning and in the afternoon you walked away with your cash. This made me pay Sh500 to join the sacco,” recounts Mr Samuel Yego, purchasing assistant at Moi University. He joined in 1994.
Between 1993 and 1997, the sacco was the talk of town. It bagged a number of awards in the country as the best credit facility.
Top farmers and businessmen banked their money there and the membership grew to over 6,000.
In 2000, the members agreed to acquire assets by constructing the Moi University Plaza located at the main campus in Kesses. It now hosts its offices and has also been rented out to a college.
They also bought a 1,000-acre parcel of land where members got between two and a half and five acres each.
Around 2007, the sacco decided to buy a piece of land in Eldoret to build Musco Towers. This marked the genesis of its problems.
By 2015, cracks started to show in the sacco. Mr Stanley Tirop, now the interim chairperson of the committee trying to salvage the sacco, recalls how members started receiving loans in bits.
“If you borrowed Sh200,000, you were given Sh20,000 or Sh50,000. Some of the members pulled out of the sacco altogether with their savings,” he recalls.
Indications that the sacco was headed in the wrong direction appeared in February last year when Commissioner for Co-operatives Mary Mungai placed it under liquidation.
A gazette notice published last year by Ms Mungai appointed two liquidators to take custody for a year.
On October 18, members threatened to move to court to halt the planned sale of Musco towers without their involvement.
This followed the decision by the liquidators to place a public notice in the newspapers urging interested buyers to purchase the building on October 14.
Mr Kirop alongside other members accused the liquidators of attempting to illegally sell off their assets.
Since July 18, there has been a conflict resolution process spearheaded by intergovernmental relations technical committee headed by Prof Karega Mutahi to resolve the impasse.
“On September 26, the committee asked Trade and Cooperative Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to reinstate the licence and return the assets to the members. We are shocked that these liquidators now want dispose our assets through an advert,” said Mr Kirop.
On June 6, members staged a demonstration in Eldoret in a bid to oppose the planned sale of Musco Towers.
“When we asked why our sacco’s doors were closed, we were not told what the problem was and what was the solution. For the last one year, the liquidator has never called a meeting. Last month we were to hold a meeting but it was postponed indefinitely at the last minute,” said Mr Wilson Koech, a member.
They claimed they spent Sh400 million to put up the structure in downtown Eldoret and would not accept the planned auction.
They now want a forensic audit of all financial activities of the sacco claiming that funds might have been embezzled by former senior officials.
“It would not make any sense that innocent sacco members are denied access to their savings, yet a few people who stole from the sacco with impunity go scot free. We demand that all former sacco officials be held to account,” said Mr Jack Willis Abok, a member of the interim committee and the secretary-general of the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Moi University chapter.
He claimed that one senior official allegedly put on hold construction of the building for 18 months during which he paid the contractor Sh20m every month.
Mr Wilson Koech, another member, complained that the liquidator had not called for a meeting with the members after Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (Sasra) appointed them.
The sacco, with assets worth Sh4 billion, was registered in 1980s. “We don’t have a problem with our sacco but with the liquidator who recently withdrew Sh30 million and banked it in a new account. We have heard that they want to increase the remittance from our employers without involving us,” added Koech.
Mr Kiprop said some of those who retired in 2016 had not been able to get their shares. “Some members are now languishing in poverty. We want Trade CS Peter Munya to intervene and assist us to get our dues,” he added.
Dr David Chemei said that the poor members must first be rescued in revival plans. “We have heard that the banks are being rescued; that they plan to use our assets to settle debts used to build this structure. But we want this stopped and all members given first priority,” he said.