The Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union (GPSCCU) is accusing Junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott of practicing “financial bullyism” after it was asked to pay $49.6 million in retroactive contributions to the Audit and Supervision Fund for the years 2002 to 2013.
In a press statement on Tuesday, the GPSCCU accused the Department of Labour and Minister Scott specifically of obstructing the release of its 2011 to 2013 audit report and resultantly blocking the holding of its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and the payment of dividends to members.
It added that the ministry has also denied a request to audit the 2014 to 2016 records.
At the root of the dispute is an agreement between the union and former Minister of Labour Nanda Gopaul.
The union claims that Gopaul agreed and instructed that a waiver be granted on its obligations under Section 55 of the Cooperative Societies Act, which requires that cooperatives pay to the Audit and Supervision Fund a maximum of either 10% on Net Annual Profits or 1% of the working capital of the registered society and that this sum be used for the benefit of the contributing union.
GPSCCU said since the money was never used for its intended purpose, it had requested and was granted a waiver. The date of this grant has not been provided.
GPSCCU also said that in a letter, dated June 14, 2016, Scott acknowledged the existing agreement. In that letter, Scott wrote that a $500,000 donation by the union to the Guyana National Co-operative Union was positively considered since “your credit union was not required to contribute to the Audit and Supervision fund from surplus accrued.”
This acknowledgment was followed by a request for a further donation of $2 million, which has since been provided.
However, in a public statement last month, Scott referred to the arrangement as “a certain unfair advantage which had prevailed in the past, and which had been developed under suspicious circumstances.”
The GPSCCU has said that it considers the demand by the minister as contrary to the spirit and good intention of his predecessor’s decision as well as an attempt to impose a new decision retroactively.
It accused Scott of holding its members hostage in an attempt to have the GPSCCU Management Committee accede to unreasonable demands while stressing that the intention of the Act was to provide the benefit of a controlled development process rather that have a cooperative suffer the ignominy of financial bullyism by the ministry.
Stabroek News visited the office of the minister on Wednesday in an attempt to seek a response to the GPSCCU’s claims. It was referred to a press release which only said, “there exists for some time now certain differences in understanding of a certain issue attracting the attention of the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union and the Ministry but the Minister and the Ministry are not inclined to disclose the facts and details of that issue, at this time.”
The majority of the release concerned a report published in the Kaieteur News, where it was stated that the GPSCCU claimed it was experiencing victimisation because it refused to give the minister a donation of $2 million. Scott has denied this claim and directed that if the union and the Kaieteur News refused to retract their statement or should they persist with the publication, he would have no alternative but to proceed with legal action against them.