‘Hotbeds of corruption’
In the early 1980s, I was among those residents of Jabriya who sought to establish a cooperative society. I was elected chairman of the board of directors by acclamation. Here lawyer, Mustafa Al-Sarraf, who was one of the founders, asked me if I could give him the presidency, and I accepted this without regret.
A few months later, in London, where I was working, another founder, Haidar Ghandafari, as I remember, visited me and asked me to give up the shareholder number (1) to an influential figure, I also accepted that without regret.
The first cooperative society was founded in Kaifan in 1962, and the idea behind it was to encourage the people of the area to cooperate and connect with each other, and to achieve the interest of all.
If we reviewed the names of the members of the first board of directors and the subsequent boards, we find them a miniature model of the National Assembly in its diversity, but sectarianism and racism hit the idea later, and the elections of boards were based on ugly racism and sectarianism.
Then corruption crunched their structure, as the case in all bodies. I do not think that there is a single cooperative society where theft does not occur either in terms of material, balance sheet or manipulation of assets.
For more than 30 years, we have been hearing, almost every month, about the dissolution of a board of directors of a cooperative society or its referral to the Prosecution for theft or manipulation of its funds, but we never heard that the chairman of the society or the treasurer was imprisoned for his role.
Silence on the issue of each scandal of corruption has motivated others to commit bigger corruption and misappropriation of funds of some societies has increased from hundreds of thousands of dinars to millions of dinars.
I have personally lost a lot because of such thefts. We always knew the names of the thieves but they have never been convicted.
Some cooperatives have turned into hotbeds of corruption and the fates of most of them are controlled by ignorant or dishonest people, whose aim is either to reach the Parliament through the Board of Directors or make illegal wealth.
These cooperative societies have become a permanent headache for every minister of Social Affairs and Labor. There is no looming solution for that problem, and therefore it is necessary to think about a radical solution to the destruction of cooperative societies, through the firmness in the application of the law.
Another solution is convert them to joint stock companies owned by the people of the area only and there should be a maximum ceiling for ownership limits, and prevent someone who has no interest in their fate to exercise control, and the current Minister of Social Affairs may be able more than the others to put the solution in place.
For information only, a majority of Kuwaitis are members of cooperative societies.
By Ahmad Al Sarraf