The setting up of a special crime investigations unit to police savings and credit co-operative societies is an idea that was clearly long overdue. That co-operatives lose lots of money daily is an open secret. And playing a big role in the fraud and outright thefts are some wayward officials of these otherwise critical organisations instrumental in improving their members’ well-being and boost the national economy.
Once set up within a month’s time, the unit should hit the ground running to streamline the mess that threatens to derail this vital sector. It is expected to enhance collaboration between the Saccos Regulatory Authority (Sasra), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission in tackling a wound that has been festering for years.
There have been cases of crooked fellows setting up saccos, getting the requisite approvals and collecting members’ contributions before vanishing into thin air. The members realise only too late that what they had believed was a genuine vehicle to enable them achieve their dreams was just a con game. Such rogue officials give the saccos a bad name and yet these organisations have been proved to economically empower their members if well-managed.
The criminal elements in the sector thrive largely because of collusion with crooked officials. The establishment of Sasra has enabled greater supervision and monitoring of the operations of the leaders in the co-operative movement. Today, it’s harder for sly officials to collude and award themselves inflated loans and refuse to remit payments to the saccos. However, Sasra’s oversight is only over deposit-taking saccos, leaving thousands of savers at the mercy of suspect non-deposit taking organisations that come with lofty, but unattainable promises.
Saccos today account for some 35 per cent of national savings, and contribute to the development of housing, and the provision of key services, including health and education.
But it is quite true that some unscrupulous individuals have taken advantage of these popular organisations to enrich themselves, and it is these people that the special crime unit will be specifically targeting. The best way to deter such crimes is to investigate, prosecute and sternly punish the errant officials.