Auditing of co-ops concerns both officials and the system

28Nov 2019
The Guardian
Auditing of co-ops concerns both officials and the system

WHILE its work has been boosted considerably in recent years, it appears that the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) remains with tonnes upon tonnes of work on its hands.

This includes investigating the presumed embezzlement of upwards of 124.05bn/- indicated in the 2018/2019 audit report on cooperative unions in the country.

It is not easy to recall when such a massive figure has been at issue from a routine audit report in a government department, or for that matter involving so many people.

Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga has just notified the media that the government had directed the Cooperative Audit and Supervision Corporation (COASCO) to audit all registered cooperative unions for financial year 2018/2019.

Surprisingly, many of the registered cooperatives are nowhere to be seen – which also means that the Registrar wasn’t informed earlier of their demise or ruin, and so many refused or were not in a position to present books for auditing. It can only mean that their books were so much of a shambles that they just wouldn’t dare hand them over.

Equally significant is the fact that just about a half of registered cooperatives still have a breath of life in them, the rest being dysfunctional and incapable of routine, bankable activities – as it is this sort of activity which is then audited.

Half of the cooperatives are functioning and some 2,800 of the other half (around 5,000 cooperative units) are inactive and 2,100 simply cannot be traced.

For those still active, only a lowly 303 (noted as 6.9 per cent, that is, around one in 12 audited cooperatives) had clean reports, more than half had doubtful ones and the rest bad or dirty ones.

That is why it is hard to see how all this can be resolved by administrative measures like the task given to PCCB, much as there is definitely some wrongdoing worth pursuing for the sake of honesty and good governance.

During his time in power, Father of the Nation Mwalimu JK Nyerere on countless occasions addressed the matter in a regretting manner, insinuating that when cooperatives work they appear incapable of ensuring integrity and correctness in what they report or how they use cash.

The problem is perennial and at times a new government that may declare that it will not pay debts of cooperatives if such debts were contracted in shady circumstances – and then end up paying up, anyway.

One reason is that someone somewhere may be haunted by the possibility of getting a snub in elections ostensibly for having let down people of a certain area.

The PCCB leadership says that they have the authority to deal with all manner of embezzlement and it has upon all those involved to start paying back the money or face legal action. In fact, it has vowed not to leave any stone unturned in unearthing all those involved in embezzlement.

After all is said and done, though, it is needful to examine if it would not pay for the government to restore the ancient model under which cooperatives were based on direct membership instead of being an extension of village governments. This should serve as food for thought.