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Mbarara City Traders Association Chairman and Treasurer in Trouble Over 39 Million Fraud

Joshua Nahamya

Mbarara- Mbarara City Traders Association [MBACITA] leaders are under investigation for alleged mismanagement of Shs 39 million members’ subscription funds.

This follows the petition by some of the executive members to the Office of the President challenging how the umbrella chairman Ssezi Mwijuka Simon is selfishly running the association like his individual entity.

During a special general meeting held on Tuesday, Bakaria Tumuhimbise, the treasurer failed to explain where they got Shs 39 mln from to run the association office.

“Entirely our source of income is members’ subscription and since inception, we have 260 members that have so far paid Shs 10,472,000 but we have spent UGX 49,288,500,” Tumuhimbise said

When asked about over-expenditure, Tumuhimbise explained that other monies were being collected and spent by the chairman unknowingly.

“As a treasurer, the income I know for MBACITA is 10mln but the other money was brought by the chairperson because if you look at the bank statements, the withdrawal cannot tie with the money we got,” Tumuhimbise said

Part of MBACITA members seeking for accountability duirng a special generla meeting held on Tuesday.

He added that the association has three bank accounts and a SACCO account out of which he only manages a Bank of Africa account as a principal signatory.

“I only have bank statements from Bank of Africa, but with Stanbic, I am not a signatory, the chairman is the principal signatory and he has been withdrawing the money by himself,” Tumuhimbise said

According to Suzan Kentaro, General Secretary, MBACITA was started in June 2021, to uplift the business community through advocacy for favorable business policy, opportunities, and affordable financial services.

“We started as one team attending regular meetings but later the chairman became a dictator, he is the chairperson, a secretary, treasurer and publicity”

On 21 and 25th, September 2023, the executive sat with the RCC and advised the chairman to change his behavior but he has refused to work with the business community.

“And we are not willing to work with him anymore, let the members elect new leaders who can move MBACITA forward” Kentaro said

Musa Barugahare, the spokesperson of MBACITA also said that since September 2022, the committee has never held any meeting yet the accused chairman was implementing the annual association activities without any resolution.

“As MBACITA executive, there are discrepancies in our leadership, we appeal to the traders to hold an annual general meeting and elect competent leaders into power for the smooth running of the association,” Barugahare said

Deputy RCC, Moses Ariho asked the DPC and the DISO to investigate the MBACITA chairman and the treasurer.

“DPC and the DISO we must investigate these two people the treasurer and the chairman so that at the AGM we have our own report. If it means causing special investigations we are going to do it”

“You have a registered association but if its intention is extortion, we shall close it. And if we find things not going on well of course the chairman and the treasurer will be arrested because that is extortion and obtaining money by false pretence” Ariho explained

He also tasked the city principal commercial officer Allan Karakure Buhanda to set a date for an elective Annual general meeting. “As members, if you find the leaders stealing your money, during the coming AGM vote them out and put leaders who have a vision for your association” Aruho advised

Robert Kanusu, RCC Mbarara City North also asked the accused chairman to suspend the campaign of mobilizing funds to buy a fire fighting truck.

Kentaro, General secretary speaking

“The fundraising for the fire truck should stop immediately and all the banners in this town and advertisements be halted for now,” Kanusu said

The Mbarara city internal security officer, Elly Tugaine challenged traders of Mbarara to have a chamber of commerce.

“it’s only Mbarara that I have joined which has no chamber of commerce and I would expect MBACITA as an umbrella to advocate for the traders to be working hand in hand with a chamber of commerce”

He also advised the association to bank all its money in a single account. “Why open three bank accounts in different banks it reflects that something fishy is going on why not operate MBACITA with one account and when you expand then you can create another one” Tugaine said

The principal commercial officer Allan Buhanda pledged to extend training to its executive and the members. “The training must be demand driven. I expect you to organise yourselves and invite me for such training”.

The accused chairman Mwijuka agreed to call off the ongoing events of the association including the mobilisation of funds to buy the firefighting equipment and opening up an association SACCO but retaliated that closing MBACITA offices has legal implications that he is ready to pursue the government. “If found culpable we are ready to apologize or be held accountable for our actions but the closure of this association is not what we are expecting at this particular time because it has a legal implication that we are ready to take on”

On allegations of withholding fresh fishmongers’ money totaling 1.3 mln, Mwijuka answered that it was a friendly arrangement and whoever was complaining should come for his/her money.

MBACITA was started in 2021; so far it has a total of 260 members. It has so far tasted annual events like a business symposium, value addition exhibitions, post-national budget conference, benchmarking, and stakeholders’ dinner among others.

Mbarara City Traders Association was started in June 2021 and on 28 August 2022 was incorporated into the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB).

It has a total membership of 260, 203 in the informal sector, 57 in the formal sector, and 3 corporate companies.

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