After two years of wrangling, the Ministry of Social Protection has taken control of the affairs of the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union Limited (GPSCCU).
An unnamed interim committee will assume management functions and the staff members of the GPSCCU have been asked to report to the Department of Cooperatives of the Ministry of Social Protection on Monday rather that the credit union’s office on Hadfield Street.
Additionally, the members of the credit union have been assured that the Hadfield Street office will reopen for business on Wednesday, May 30th.
On Friday, a team led by Chief Co-operatives Development Officer (CCDO) Perlina Gifth seized control from the GPSCCU Management Committee, which was led by Chairperson Patricia Went.
Gifth was supported by members of the Guyana National Cooperative Union Ltd, including Chairman Derrick Cummings, Director Francis Carryl and Security Consultant Johnny Mortley, while members of the Guyana Police Force and a private security service were on standby.
In a press statement issued on Friday, the Ministry explained that its actions were “in conformity with” the provisions of the Co-operative Societies Act, which provides that the accounts of every credit union shall be audited at least once annually after which an Annual General Meeting (AGM) would be held to discuss important matters, including the determination and payment of dividends to members.
According to the statement, the Management Committee of the GPSCCU did not find it necessary and expedient to prudently conclude the audits and consequential business in the interest of the subscribing members.
It added that for more than two years the Ministry of Social Protection had engaged the Management Committee, which it advised to comply with the law, exhibit prudence and behave judiciously so that the concerns of thousands of public servants and other public sector employees could have been adequately addressed.
“Rather than adhering to the advice and promptings of the Ministry, the Credit Union Management remained adamant and numb to the members’ pleas while select members of the Management Committee continued to enjoy unjustified benefits at the expense of the members. The Ministry of Social Protection has decided that the time has come for a restoration of the dignity for which the Credit Union was previously known, hence the decisions of the CCDO,” it stated.
The Ministry’s version of events differs greatly from that of the credit union.
Last September, the credit union accused Minister Keith Scott of “financial bullyism” after he requested that the union pay over $49 million in retroactive contributions to an Audit and Supervision Fund for the years 2002 to 2013.
The credit union held that it had been granted a waiver by former Minister of Labour Nanda Gopaul and had said that Scott was obstructing the release of the 2011 to 2013 audit reports, therefore, blocking the holding of its AGM, and as a result, the payment of dividends to members. It was also stated that the ministry refused to audit the 2014 to 2016 records.
This explanation was not enough for some members, a small group of whom protested the union in February of this year.
The protestors had called on the Ministry of Social Protection to address the matter as they alleged that funds were being misused.
It appears the Ministry has heard and responded to their request as it explained that the decision to assume control was taken “after carefully considering the unsatisfactory performance of the previous Management team which failed to manage the affairs of the Society in the best interest of its members and within the parameters of the relevant Laws.”
According to the Ministry, it has been monitoring the performance of the replaced Management Committee for several years and it was not satisfied that the affairs of the credit union were being handled within the realms of integrity, transparency and professionalism.
The management team which was removed includes Chairperson Went, Vice-Chairperson Vera Naughton, Treasurer Uhlan Leander, Members Thomas Nestor, Patrick Yarde, Maurice Veecock, Dawn Gardener, Jermaine Hermanstyne, Reginald Brotherson, Kenneth Watson, Grace McKend and Ivelaw Henry, along with Secretary/Manager Trevor Benn.