NaCCUA Ends 7th AGM

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The Seventh Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the National Cooperative Credit Union Association (NaCCUA) ended past weekend at the King’s Palace, 85 Wellington Street in Freetown.

Forty-three (43) CU members nationwide attended the AGM on the theme, ‘Quality Leadership for Credit Union Stability and Growth in Sierra Leone.’

NACCUA is the umbrella body of all Credit Unions (CUs) in Sierra Leone with the mandate of monitoring, supervising and advocating on behalf of CUs. Its management structure is made up of five Board Members who are charged with the responsibility of taking strategic decisions towards the achievement of its strategic plan. NaCCUA has 3 members on supervisory committee and a staff.

The keynote speaker, the Chief Director in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr. Emmanuel Konjoh congratulated NaCCUA for the seventh AGM, that the National Medium Term Development Plan has 8 clusters, among them, to diversify the economy and international competitiveness but noted that there would be no funding without proper auditing. He was happy to see NaCCUA being audited by professional auditing firm reiterating that auditing and competition would move CUs forward and encouraged them to tap into the 3,000 artisanal miners and 1,374 commercial motorbike riders in the country both of whom are economically viable.

On capacity building, he asked how often does NaCCUA share knowledge with its members, implored all to always leave a legacy and imbibe the culture of dignity as Sierra Leone has potentials warning that the country cannot depend on donors forever and assured that the Ministry would review and concretize the Cooperative Act after the cabinet approval of the Cooperative policy.

In her statement, Mrs. Lillian Songo, Chairperson of NaCCUA commended the Irish League of Credit Union Foundation Limited (ILCUF Ltd), Sparkassenstiftung, the Bank of Sierra Leone and the Department of Cooperatives (DoC) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry for their demonstration of commitment to the development of communities through the CU model as a formidable force to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) relating to financial inclusion, access to finance and gender empowerment.

She also acclaimed the Ministry of Trade and Industry for working relentlessly to review the 1977 Cooperative Act and the 1978 rule to initiate regulations relevant to current issues affecting CUs revealing that CUs have adopted tremendous growth performance due to robust education, supervision, monitoring (both offsite and onsite) using key performance indicators such as summary of delinquent leaders, scoring of CUs’ performance, liquidity and monthly reporting system by managements to NaCCUA and ILCUF.

Mrs. Lillian Songo underscored the need to audit CUs and holding of AGMs to serve as checks and balances for healthy growth disclosing that NaCCUA and partners have instituted a master file for all CUs for quarterly updates and informed that due to its successes and in spite of the challenges, the Financial Inclusion for Resilience in Sierra Leone (FIRSL) project would end this September but that a new project titled, ‘STET-UP Project’ from the Irish Aid, through the Irish Government, has been approved for another three years.

Another highlight, the Chairperson catalogued, was the unanimous decision by CU leaders recommending the amending of byelaws to remove delinquent leaders and in addition to the vetting process for AGM elections to weed out delinquent people from contesting lamenting that delinquency is still a challenge as it affects profitability, retards growth and has the propensity to kill a CU.

She asserted that the Cooperative Act of 1977 is still challenging as well as organizing a formidable CU employee base as most institutions have little or no knowledge of Cooperatives and appealed to CU leaders to demonstrate high compliance in the CUs’ core international operating principals which bind them all in the values of democratic structure, service to their members and social goals.

The Administrative Secretary of NaCCUA, Mr. Alhaji Kanu said membership has increased to 25, that 5 CUs were able to hold their AGMs and encouraged others to do same in spite of the COVID-19, that in 2020, 12 CUs were audited by both the DoC and NaCCUA Auditors. NaCCUA, in collaboration with ILCUF, has conducted various trainings including Review of Policies, Financial Interpretation, Bookkeeping, Governance, Micro-Business Game, Training of Trainers and Financial Literacy.

He also informed the AGM that in order to enhance feasibility in CUs, ILCUF has helped NaCCUA to develop a website that can be accessed at www.naccuasl.org, that NaCCUA now holds regular monthly meetings in addition to developing both loans and credit control policies and the human resource policy for CUs assuring that NaCCUA and ICUF have continued to ensure that delinquency is reduced as leaders should be role models.

He informed that the scoring performance was introduced to ensure that CUs are graded based on the following: number of board meetings held, delinquent leaders and staff, portfolio at risk is less than 15 or has reduced by 15%, increase in savings, bookkeepers are able to prepare financial reports up to the JRC and compliance to offset monitoring.

The Administrative Secretary further informed that Bayconsfield and Port Loko Teachers are the CUs that have recorded 100% as at 31st December 2020 adding that NaCCUA and ILCUF have also introduced Financial Ratios Analysis for CUs which most of them have met.

On challenges facing CUs, Mr. Alhaji Kanu highlighted was cash being controlled by one individual, and loan delinquency in which CUs experienced an increase in portfolio at risk during the COVID-19.

Mr. Alfred Moseray, Deputy Registrar of Department of Cooperatives (DoC) said that they have over the years promoted and regulated CUs in the country including the formulation of byelaws, that they would continued to collaborate with NaCCUA to audit CUs that is one of their core mandates, collaborate with the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) and Baker Tilly to ensure professionalism, that they have learnt a lot from CUs and would continue to supervise them as a follow-up on the audit recommendations, especially delinquent leaders.

According to the Deputy Registrar, potential CU leaders would be vetted and that his office would prioritize arbitration and registration to ensure compliance with CU rules and regulations.

The General Manager of ILCUF, Mr. Solomon Mwongyere revealed that ILCUF has grown from three to 12 staff with the introduction of new departments like monitoring, training and ICT and that they are working closely with NaCCUA, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, DoC and the Bank of Sierra Leone.

He informed that the CU membership of 11,000 out of a population of 7 million in Sierra Leone is small citing examples of 400,000 in Kenya and 200,000 in some East African countries as members of one Credit Union and called on CUs in Sierra Leone to do more reiterating that such events are for members to learn and replicate in their CUs.

He observed that some CUs are costing ILCUF a lot of money in audit fees warning that CUs are money business for which bookkeepers should not make mistakes which costs them in the long run and encouraged CUs to recruit professionals adding that as CUs grow, they must increase the salaries of workers.

Mr. Solomon Mwongyere further intimated that he had held several discussions with stakeholders who are interested in CUs, that a new three-year project has been approved by the Irish Government through the Irish Aid for CUs to step-up in all their activities disclosing that members of the forces and other Government MDAs would soon be brought onboard, warned CU leaders that regulations are key and that delinquent leaders should not hold positions and informed that in the next three months stakeholders would review the rule book and appealed for salient inputs asserting that he appreciates the work of CUs.

He said ILCUF dropped some CUs this year for non-performance/compliance, that after a lot of consultations, the Bank of Sierra Leone is proposing to mandate NaCCUA to regulate CUs and that they have agreed on a CU Steering Committee made up of various Line MDA, NaCCUA, Donor agencies and civil society organization to design the road map on the way forward for a stronger CU in Sierra Leone.

An adviser to NaCCUA board, Dr. Modupe Taylor-Pearce also made a statement.

Highlights of the AGM were the presentation of the audit report, the 2021 budget, Supervisory Committee Report, resolutions to amend savings and share policies and the election of a new chairperson of the Supervisory Committee while Madam Mary Bundu from the Moyamba District Teachers Credit Union who is also Treasurer of NaCCUA, rendered the vote of thanks.