By Stephen Makabila
For the first time under the Jubilee administration, selected top performers from the Co-operatives sector may receive State awards alongside other Kenyans during this year’s Jamhuri Day celebrations.
In an exclusive interview at his office, Commissioner of Co-operatives, Philip Gichuki told Sacco Review, “Yes, State House communicated to us and we hope a few leaders in the Co-operative sector will be honoured.”
If it comes to pass, it will be the first honour for the Co-operative sector since the Jubilee Government took over power in 2013. Several players in the Co-operative sector had benefitted from awards during the former Government of retired President Mwai Kibaki.
The Government has also lined-up a major National Leaders Conference later this year to validate a new Co-operative Policy.
On the planned leaders’ conference, Gichuki noted it should have been held within November but was pushed forward for logistical reasons. “Initially, we had planned the conference to involve leaders and all stakeholders in the Co-operative sector for November, but it has to be held before the close of this year,” he said. Gichuki has also disclosed that the country was experiencing the highest ever rate in registration of new Co-operatives, and that 100 new Co-operatives were being registered monthly. “We now have well over 22,000 registered Co-operatives in the country. The fast rate of registration demonstrates the growth in the sector and that is why ours is the most vibrant sector on the African continent,” he noted.
He said the impressive growth in the sector was also partly as a result of an effective supervision role by Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA) and the work of the Ethics Commission within the ministry.
“At SASRA, request to kick off the hunt for a substantive Chief Executive Officer has been made now that the Authority has a substantive Chairman,” disclosed Gichuki.
On the new policy, the Commissioner noted the current Co-operative policy had been overtaken by dynamics in the sector, especially after the roll-in of devolution, and that the new policy will offer direction on how the National and County governments operate as far as the Co-operative sector was concerned.
“The new policy will pave way for harmonization and of the Sacco Act and Co-operative Societies Act, ushering in a new direction as far as running of the Co-operative sector in the country is concerned,” noted Gichuki.
Already, the policy in its draft form has been cleaned-up and fine-tuned through financial support from the Agriculture sector Development Programme.
The expected conference is to approve the Draft policy before it is presented to the Cabinet as a Cabinet Memo.
“If the Cabinet approves it, it will then move to the Senate to be tabled by the Senate Majority Leader Prof Kithure Kindiki, before being moved to the National Assembly,” a senior official at the State Department of Co-operative separately told the Sacco Review.
Approval by both Houses of Parliament will see the Draft policy become a Sessional Paper to be signed by the President, paving way for review of the Co-operative laws.
The new policy is supposed to clear the grey areas brought about by the devolved system and ensure a smooth running of the sector without overlaps between the National and County governments.
Industry, Trade and Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary (CS) Adan Mohamed had recently noted the Government had prioritized the review of the Co-operative Development policy, the Sacco Societies Act and the Co-operative Societies Act in order to align them to the Constitution and the devolved system of government.
The new policy has equally been the focus of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Co-operatives, whose members told a Saccos conference in Nairobi earlier in the year that they would do their best to ensure a policy that befits the sector is in place.
After the ushering in of the new Constitution, the Co-operative movement was devolved but there are still grey areas when it comes to the exact roles of the National and County governments, thus necessitating a new guiding policy.
Most of the Saccos and Co-operatives through their apex association, the Co-operative Alliance of Kenya (CAK), have therefore been keen and closely following moves on the review of the policy, at times organizing their own forums over the same under CAK.
And some counties for example have been demanding powers of registration of Saccos, a function that is currently the responsibility of the National Government.
According to the Co-operative Principal Secretary (PS), Ali Ismail, the most advisable way would be to have a Central registry like the Companies Registry, noting the work of promoting and supervising a Co-operative remains with the County Government and that CECs have understood the matter and the demand for County registries have subsided.
The PS has argued that County certificates will limit the growth of Co-operatives as it would confine them to the counties.
Gichuki noted while CAK has been pushing for the new policy, the ministry has to play a central role in its realization.
By Stephen Makabila