Police in Luwero district have cautioned Village Savings and Loans Associations against attacks ahead of the Christmas season. There are over 2,000 Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) across the district.
The Village Savings and Loan Associations have between 15-30 members, who save between 10,000 and 40,000 Shillings every month. The money is either banked in the group account or stored in a wooden box kept in one of the executive member’s homes.
As the year comes to an end, the group members share the savings from the 12 months, and according to the District Chairman Erastus Kibirango, some treasurers or Chairmen withdraw all the money from the banks and move with it to the meeting venue in cash, a move he says is putting lives at risk.
So far, two groups in Wobulenzi town have lost between nine and 19 million Shillings, each in the suspected robbery attacks.
Savannah Regional Police Spokesperson Assistant Superintendent of Police Patrick Lule says that the Police are investigating the Executive Committee of Tukolere Wamu Development Saving Group in Wobulenzi town over the loss of members’ savings worth 19 million Shillings soon after it was withdrawn from the bank.
Lule says that due to risks associated with transporting cash, savings groups are advised to either seek Police escorts or embrace electronic money transfers, especially during this Christmas for their own safety.
George William Namugera, a member of Kakokoolo Tusitukiremu Development Saving Association in Luwero town says that they have encouraged their group members to open up accounts to reduce sharing cash but about 50 per cent are yet to embrace the idea. Namugera’s group distributed 30 million Shillings in cash last week.
“Some of us already possess bank accounts but some of our members are yet to open them over misconceptions about the charges involved… We need more sensitization on the risks associated with cash transactions so as to all embrace banks.’’ Namugera said.
Eric Musaazi, the Executive Director of Team Uganda, an organization that has organized 117 savings groups in Luwero town says that some savers also fear hiring security personnel on grounds that they may rob them during transit to the meetings from the banks. He adds that they had asked the associations to use Mobile Money but the services involve prohibitive withdrawal costs.
Musaazi says that they are in talks with local bank managers to sensitize their members on opening saving accounts and making electronic transfers to minimize risks.
There are an estimated 14 million bank accounts in the country. Of these, only about 2 per cent have deposits totalling more than 10 million Shillings, while, of the rest, about 93 per cent have less than 1 million, according to the Deposit Protection Fund.