Public service credit union members protest move to oust IMC

-accuse directors of financial mismanagement after checks reveal over $30M spent on trips

Protestors outside of the credit union office yesterday afternoon. (Terrence Thompson)

Supporters of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) that was recently installed to oversee the affairs of the Guyana Public Service Cooperative Credit Union (GPSCCU) yesterday staged a protest against the injunction secured by the Secretary/Manager of the union to retake control of the organisation.

Justice Gino Persaud last Thursday granted an interim order staying the decision of the Chief Cooperatives Development Officer (CCDO) Perlina Gifth, to assume and or exercise control of the affairs of the union. On May 25th, a team led by Gifth seized control of the GPSCCU from the Management Committee, which was led by Chairperson Patricia Went, saying that it had ignored previous urgings to abide by the law. Last week’s injunction was granted upon the reading of an application made without notice on June 14th, with supporting affidavit by GPSCCU Secretary/ Manager Trevor Benn.

The order will be in place until July 3rd, when attorney Roysdale Forde is expected to file skeleton arguments on Benn’s behalf, while July 6th is set for the hearing of a fixed date application to prevent Gifth or anyone else from acting on the decision previously communicated.

“Mr Benn, don’t tek set up!” were among the chants strongly shouted by the protestors, who gathered after midday yesterday in front of the union’s Hadfield Street office.

Among the supporters was Jermaine Hermanstyne, one of the Directors of the recently ousted IMC.

Hermanstyne has voiced his support for the government’s decision to install the IMC, having long communicated his opposition of the union’s management, although he forms part of the committee.

He joined the calls of his fellow protestors, who stood at around a dozen, for GPSCCU Director Patrick Yarde to be removed from the position.

Hermanstyne said that he had not supported the injunction filed by the committee, and related that an affidavit has been filed on his behalf by attorney Nigel Hughes, stating that no permission was granted for representation to be made on his behalf.

“I want to make it very clear that I am disassociating myself from that. I was never contacted by any of the former managers, I was never told about any court action, I learned from this in the press. This is another attempt to tarnish my integrity…,” he opined.

“The government took control of this credit union to protect the interests of the shareholders because they’re interested in what is happening, they’ve seen the abuse that has been taking place, they’ve seen the mismanagement that has taken place, millions of dollars being unaccounted for. And so, last Friday we understand that the ousted management committee decided that they’re going to come back here and regain control and we’re saying no. We’re going to stand up to them as shareholders. We support the government’s move to take control to protect our interests and we’re going to do all that we can within our power to ensure that the credit union be returned to the people. The membership. The shareholders,” protestor Karen Van Sluytman-Corbin said.

“…For too long the credit union has been hijacked by a management committee who seem to think that the funds of this credit union belongs to them and them alone…,” she added.

Asked what evidence the group is in possession of to prove the fiscal mismanagement, Van Sluytman-Corbin indicated that there was “lots of evidence” but stated that it would be provided to the relevant authorities in time.

Gregory Gaspar, former Guyana Public Service Union Guyana Geology and Mines Commission branch Chairman, was also on the protest line yesterday.

“I’m hoping that the IMC will continue to do their work so that this organisation can be audited and we can know what is going on with our funds and, if necessary, those who are involved in any illegal activities will be brought before the courts,” he said.

Chairman of the IMC Trevor Benn (Guyana Lands and Surveys Commissioner, who has the same name as the GPSCCU Secretary/ Manager) related to Stabroek News yesterday that according to reports they received from staff, following the granting of the injunction, the old committee went into the office on Friday and retrieved all the documents related to the audit sanctioned by the CCDO, as well as changed the locks to the building.

He related that among the “first actions of the team” was to sign a cheque for in excess of $2 million. Benn opined that it is clear that their actions are not in keeping with the financial rules of the union and that “money is their motive.”

He revealed that checks as part of the audit have unfurled transactions amounting to over $32 million for overseas travel, but stated that they have been unable to find supporting documents with the details of those trips. The money is said to pertain to travels over a two to three year period. He also said that they found an incident in which one committee member was paid over $1 million to represent the management in talks with the government to avoid the payment of audit fees.

Benn indicated that the IMC would be approaching the court today on the matter. He related that attempts were made to do so yesterday, but some difficulty was encountered.

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