By Our Reporter
The acting Commissioner for Co-operative Development Geoffrey Njang’ombe is facing a full-in tray for the sector, with little time to settle given the disruption caused to the economy by coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Njang’ombe took over from Didacus Ityeng who served briefly in acting capacity following the exit of Mary Mungai in April last year. Ms Mungai had been appointed the first, lady Commissioner for Co-operative Development on 7th December 2016 for a three-year term.
She exited with a mixed bag of fortunes, leaving behind several unfinished agenda that gives her successor little room to settle. The situation has been complicated by the coronavirus that has left some Saccos fighting for liquidity.
Covid-19 has reinforced the need for deeper investment in digital services to ensure the sector operates even in difficult conditions as those brought about by the virus.
For instance, Mr Njang’ombe had to allow Saccos to pay dividends without holding annual general meetings since the state had banned large gatherings. Yet, many Saccos are ill-prepared in holding virtual meetings.
Mr Njang’ombe will be expected to speed up the digitization of Co-operatives department data so as to provide efficient services to Saccos. The department already had Co-operative Information Management System, but this has only been piloted in Nairobi.
The new boss will have to roll this out countrywide to ensure services such as filing of wealth declaration forms by Sacco bosses or submitting of annual returns and audited accounts is done digitally.
Co-operatives see this as an opportunity to speed up quality of service delivery while cutting on costs in order to compete with other financial service providers.
He will also be expected to work closely with Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (Sasra) to establish a central liquidity facility for Saccos. This has remained a proposal for a while.
This is seen as a step closer to participating in the national payment system especially that Saccos have now been allowed to access the credit reference bureaus (CRBs) records.
Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives (Kuscco) showed the way by forming the Central Finance Fund to help Saccos to borrow money when need arises.
Mr Njang’ombe is also expected to steer the formation and implementation of National Co-operative Development Policy and regulations for Specified non-deposit taking Saccos.
The policy is supposed to help tackle governance lapses in the co-operatives movement that have seen members lose money.
Several co-operatives societies are reeling under the weight of mismanagement, fraud and bad loans that have raised questions on quality of management.
“The policy has deliberate interventions to do with the governance, such as to legislate on who can be a leader in the co-operative,” Mr Njang’ombe was recently quoted in the press as saying.
More than two years ago, the state appointed a task force to draft rules governing non-deposit taking SACCO businesses in Kenya at a time around 6,000 co-operatives were not under any strict supervision and therefore breeding corruption.
The policy will among other things set requirements for who can manage a co-operatives society and the penalties for flouting the rules governing the movement.
Saccos such as Ekeza Sacco that went under with members’ billions are among the several Saccos that have exposed existing government lapses in the sector.