Kenya Planters Co-operative Union ( KPCU) is one massive behemoth, with over 300 co-operative societies, representing about 750,000 members. That it is a living example of How-Not-To-Manage an Enterprise for any serious student of economics and management is not debatable.
That it is suffocating under the yoke of a massive Sh600 million-plus bank debt is no secret. And that Kenya Commercial Bank has appointed a receiver-manager to manage the slumbering giant to recover its debt is also in the public domain.
And that scores of member co-operatives under the KPCU umbrella are riddled with corruption and officials who have systematically looted them to the shells they are, is a clear and urgent call for help to the supervising Co-operative Development and Marketing ministry under Mr Joseph Nyagah.
To his credit, the minister has initiated various interventions, including lobbying for a bailout package to settle some of the debts to resume operations and ensure the Sh750 million government set aside in the 2011/12 budget does not disappear through the graft cracks in KPCU.
Seeing the importance of this subsector, President Kibaki weighed in last September and ordered revival of KPCU within six months. That we believe is what the ministry is undertaking. His ministry’s mandate is not to micro-manage Sacco operations anywhere in the country.
Cases of embezzlement in individual KPCU member societies are straightforward “theft by servant” and are a criminal and therefore, police and courts matter, not the minister’s ambit. But when even the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture is seen to speak at cross-purposes with the line ministry, is it any wonder that KPCU’s resuscitation is taking so long!
Various vested interests should rally behind the minister and the new KPCU interim board he inaugurated since it is composed of representatives elected by farmers on July 20 to serve for the next year.
We feel the minister should ignore the busybodies now masquerading as speaking for majority of the farmers and proceed with the noble restructuring of KPCU. Agricultural sector reform is work-in-progress that needs political and public’s goodwill to get back on track.