The collapse and financial challenges facing some Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (saccos) have sparked anxiety in the trillion-shilling sector.

A number of saccos are facing liquidity challenges and are at the risk of going under.

And now, the government is under pressure to speed up regulations to help rein in saccos that have defrauded members.

According to the Department of Cooperatives, there are 23,000 registered cooperative societies, which share among them 14 million members. Collectively, the cooperatives hold Sh732 billion of member savings, control an asset base of Sh1 trillion and a Sh700 billion loan portfolio.

Kenya’s cooperative movement is ranked high in Africa and is one of the best globally due to its asset base.

Despite the rosy picture, the insistence for better management of cooperatives betrays the anxiety of the sector in the back of the collapse of a number of saccos.

Weak legislation

Weak legislation, poor financial management, leadership and governance have doomed a number of the cooperatives to failure.

Some such as Metropolitan Sacco are on the red line while others such as Nitunze Sacco and Ekeza have gone under, and with them the lifeline of thousands of their members.

As Kenya marked the 97th International Co-operative Day at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the government will increase policy interventions to fix loopholes in the sector.

“I direct the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives to fast-track the formulation of the National Co-operative Policy and immediately operationalise the proposed Sacco Societies Fraud Investigation Unit (SSFIU) within the Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA),” said the President.

Restructuring SASRA is one of the recommendations in the proposed National Co-operative Development Policy, which is currently being considered by Cabinet.

“The government recognises the need to strengthen enforcement and therefore proposes to restructure SASRA to allow it regulate all financial cooperatives,” the draft policy states.

Industry, Trade and Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya concedes that the decentralisation of cooperative management brought on challenges that the State hopes the new policy will cure.

Closer cooperation

“Since 2013 when the devolved system was implemented, challenges have emerged in the management and supervision of the co-operatives that call for closer cooperation between the national and the county governments,” Munya said.

If ratified, the policy will also give a clear separation of duties between the county and national governments.

Richard Nyakenogo, the Group General Manager for Co-operative Business at CIC Group, said a distinction of the roles undertaken by the two governments would align the sector.

“It is a critical thing at the moment because if governance is not properly aligned in the government sector the cooperatives cannot thrive. There is every need for the two arms of government to ensure there are clear policies that are assisting the running of these institutions,” Nyakenogo said.