Cooperatives have over the past few years lost millions of francs to fraud and corruption.
These vices affect their performance, leaving members to suffer losses in terms of dividends, and repayment of stolen funds in case the culprits disappear with loans.
A case in point is a Kirehe-based farmers’ cooperative, where the chairman disappeared with Rwf300 million from the group’s coffers and has never been traced.
The theft affected the coop’s development projects and now members have to repay the money as part it was a bank loan.
According to the National Co-operatives Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR), some leaders of cooperative societies are increasingly using their positions to fleece the organisations and members.
NCCR told the union’s assembly recently that other leaders use assets of the coops for personal gain. However, NCCR should work with the Rwanda Cooperative Alliance and security organs to clampdown on unscrupulous leaders and staff of cooperative societies instead of lamenting.
This could help nip such vices in the bud before they cripple the cooperative movement, which is playing a key role in agriculture production, trade and community development, among other roles.
Coops have helped lift millions of Rwandans out of poverty, fight malnutrition and food insecurity, which gains must not let down the drain by dishonest leaders.
To deter the vices, severe penalties should be meted out to anyone found culpable of misusing coop assets for individual benefit, or those that steal funds entrusted to them.
Similar action should also be applied in SACCOs as they also experience many cases of fraud involving employees or leaders. Coop members should also play an active part and report any individuals or leaders that contravene asset or financial management guidelines of their societies.