Leave Bugisu Co-operative Union alone, farmers tell government

Saturday September 28 2013

Bugisu Co-operative Union Limited premises in Mbale.

Bugisu Co-operative Union Limited premises in Mbale. The union has become a point of contention with farmers accusing government of messing it up. MONITOR PHOTO. 

By David Mafabi

Mbale

Farmers in the 250 cooperative societies under Bugisu Co-operative Union Limited (BCU) want the government to justify the three years that ministry of Trade has been in charge of the Union.

“We have already consulted our lawyers and we are considering suing government on its continuous stay at the union without business and even failing to pay farmers who have supplied coffee to the union. We are asking ourselves how long government is going to remain in charge of the union. When the old board left the union, there was Shs1.4b as working capital, all farmers had been paid but today there is no business at BCU,” said Mr Paul Mugoya, a farmer and member of BCU.

In December 2010, the government suspended the BCU board led by Mr Nandala Mafabi on claims that his board had falsified the books of accounts. A letter by the Registrar of Cooperative Societies, Mr Fred Mwesigye, dated December 15, 2010, said the board had been suspended to allow a select committee to investigate the BCU operations between 2003 and 2010.

However, before the findings of the investigations were released, the government again set up a commission of inquiry in February 2011 to probe financial wrangles in the BCU. Farmers from the about 250 primary cooperative unions are disappointed that the government has failed to produce a report of its investigations.

They say remaining under caretaker management has hurt BCU and the farmers under it. They want government to explain how it has been handling the Union’s finances. “We now want the Ministry of Trade to give us accountability, how they used the Shs1.82b capital they found in the union’s coffers, what business they have been doing and why they have failed to pay the farmers. The law on cooperatives mandates us to hold annual general meetings but there has been none for the three years. We need an explanation,” said Mr John Musira, a farmer and former Vice chairman of BCU.

In their September 23 petition to the Minister of Trade, signed by Mr Masinde Muliro, the farmers accuse government of trying to cover up the mess by the various commissions of inquiry, yet a lot of money has been lost. “If the target of government is Mr Nandala, let them come out clear but should not frustrate the union with commissions of inquiry that don’t produce anything. We are fed up and as farmers we have given them one month to give us accountability and quit the union,” reads the letter in part, a copy of which Saturday Monitor has seen.

The government on August 7 called for a special annual general meeting to elect new board of directors but called it off after realising that elections could not take place before accountability is made.

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