Laws on co-ops to be reviewed this year

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said the update of the laws is timely as the Co-operative Societies Act was last changed in 2008.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said the update of the laws is timely as the Co-operative Societies Act was last changed in 2008.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The laws on co-operatives are to be changed to improve governance, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Grace Fu said yesterday.

Ms Fu did not say when it will take effect but told co-op leaders at the annual dinner of the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF): "Most of you would agree that these changes are necessary to protect members' deposits and maintain public confidence."

The update of the laws is timely as the Co-operative Societies Act was last changed in 2008, she said.

The amendments will also build on the progress credit co-ops have made over the years, she said.

Credit co-ops, which collect deposits and give loans to members at affordable interest rates, have sought to boost governance standards in recent years.

The Registry of Co-operative Societies and the SNCF jointly issued a code of governance as well as a governance evaluation checklistlast year. The documents contain guidelines on how co-op officers should carry out their duties and how credit co-ops should assess their state of governance.

A related training programme was launched last month.

Representatives from 19 of the 24 credit co-ops attended the first training session, said Ms Fu, adding that this signals the credit co-ops' commitment to good governance.

These co-ops have more than 100,000 members and their total assets exceed $900 million.

In 2014, MCCY launched a public consultation on the revision to the laws governing co-ops. It had said then that the target is to implement the changes in full by next year .

Its move follows the cheating of one of Singapore's oldest co-ops earlier that year .

A sum of $5.1 million was missing from the Singapore Statutory Boards Employees' Cooperative Thrift and Loan Society. Two former employees were charged in December for cheating.

Ms Fu told co-op leaders: "We'll ensure there are adequate transitional arrangements and you will be supported with training and resources."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Laws on co-ops to be reviewed this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe