The government is in the process of reviewing cooperative policies currently in place in order to streamline the sector that counts about 8,800 organisations, up from about 900 ten years ago.
Cooperatives have played an integral part in improving the welfare of many Rwandans and was one of the key factors that helped remove over one million out of extreme poverty.
The main ingredients of a well-run cooperative is voluntary membership, democratic joint ownership and works in the interests of all members.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many cooperatives where managers, with all their flowery pitches on the benefits to be attained, end up running them as their personal or family domains.
The major victims have been the many credit and savings schemes (Saccos) that collapsed due to embezzlement and poor management. Sometime ago, due to the importance of community based financial institutions such as Saccos, the government had to step in and bail many out of financial pit they had been thrown in by their managers.
Despite the many assurances that those behind the losses and plunder would be made to pay, it is surprising to hear today that many are still out there enjoying the fruits of their ill-gotten gains.
As the Trade and Industry minister revealed during ghe just-ended cooperatives exhibition, all that was made possible because of structural loopholes in the policy governing cooperatives. But still the question remains: Why does it take 12 years to plug the loopholes?
Surely since the last review in 2006, policy makers must have seen it coming and made sure innocent stakeholders are not taken for a ride by unscrupulous con men that, today, are still running around scot free.
This is that time when government officials throw off their bureaucratic gloves and put words into action. The state can no longer afford to take on the burden of bailing out institutions that went down under its officials’ watch.