BPWCCUL turmoil

Credit union launches inquiry into conflict of interest claims

The island’s largest credit union has launched an internal investigation into allegations of possible conflict of interest by its most senior policymakers.

The supervisory committee of the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union Limited (BPWCCUL) this afternoon confirmed that it was giving top priority to a probe into claims that BPWCCUL President Raphael Holder might have breached of Section 75 of the Cooperative Societies Act CAP 378 A, which requires directors of the board to disclose their interests in the award of material contracts.

The investigation was triggered by an unsigned letter purportedly from an aggrieved employee or employees of the BPWCCUL, alleging that Holder’s private company, CER Holdings Inc, was also the landlord for the newest credit union branch in Mile-And-A-Quarter, St Peter.

The January 1, 2018 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, was addressed to the board of directors, the supervisory committee, the chief executive officer and the compliance division, and copied to the audit and risk divisions.

Barbados TODAY is also in receipt of a copy of the certificate of incorporation dated August 24, 2006 which names Carlson W Skeete of 37 Caribbean Drive, Heywoods, St Peter as CER Holdings’s company director, with Holder and Eugenia V Franklyn-Holder, both bankers, and both of 142 Convent Drive, Maynards Development, St Peter, as the other directors.

The author of the letter raised a series of questions regarding the BPWCCUL president’s ties to the company, his possible role in choosing the site and due diligence.

“Did Raphael Holder declare his business ties to Carlson Skeete when the Mile-And-A-Quarter location was proposed or the lease considered as required? Was Raphael Holder instrumental in the selection of Carlson Skeete’s building to be used as a branch for the credit union in his capacity as President? Was there any due diligence done on a preferred location in the north?” the author wrote.

Barbados TODAY made several attempts to reach Holder, first by phone and later via email before he responded tonight saying, “I am not the landlord of the premises leased by the credit union. Additionally, the company with which I am associated is not the landlord.Secondly, at the time of the confirmation of the lease arrangements, I was not the president of the organization.

He also sought to make it clear that the decision to rent the Mile-And-A-Quarter premises was that of the BPWCCUL board.

“The Board of Directors comprises several members and the decision to rent was a board decision, supported by management recommendation,” he added in an emailed response.

He also responded to other concerns raised by staff saying, “the credit union maintains a competent Human Resources Department, which suitably handles personnel matters”.   

Earlier, Marcelle Murrell, the chairman of the supervisory committee, had told Barbados TODAY that he was particularly concerned about the allegations, and pledged to get to the bottom of them without delay.

“Yes, we are actively doing some [investigations] at present. It is definitely front burner for us for sure,” Murrell said.

“[We have had] quite a few meetings on it. It is definitely on our radar at present for sure. I appreciate the interest. We appreciate your concern, we are very concerned as well, and as soon as we finish our process we will make a statement or take the requisite action one way or the other,” he emphasized.

Deputy General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Dwaine Paul told Barbados TODAY his union had been conducting its own investigations into concerns reported by the credit union staff, although he could not say if there was a link to the letter.

“We have received reports that there may some issues within the credit union and those are what we are looking into. But I don’t know if it is tied to the same document [relating to Holder] because I myself have not seen the latest [letter] in circulation.

“We are concerned about any major allegation, but since there are allegations we also have to make sure we proceed on a proper basis where we don’t seek to attribute any damage to anybody’s character or reputation without solid information,” Paul explained.

In a separate letter to Paul, which the BWU official said he had not yet seen, but a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, the author outlined a number of grievances, including “questionable dismissals and hiring practices” and fears surrounding the location of the Mile-And-A-Quarter branch.

“One of the most recent concerns is the new location at Mile-And-A-Quarter in St Peter where they have chosen to put our branch so far off the main road. Mr Paul, people are being attacked at ATMs [automated teller machines] and remote bank branches are being robbed,” the writer said, while making a desperate plea for help.

“Things look rosy on the outside [of the general credit union operations] because we, the staffers, are the ones keeping the credit union together, but we are under pressure and the cracks are widening.”


10 Responses to BPWCCUL turmoil

  1. luther thorne February 6, 2018 at 1:56 am

    Lock up the Guilty
    Honesty is the Best Policy.
    The Old School Tie mentality
    and the lure of Fraternity
    needs to be jettisoned

  2. John Everatt February 6, 2018 at 3:35 am

    I am glad to see that there is finally some oversight in the BPWCCUL. This has long been needed as there are many irregularities in the way this credit union and its baord operates. This is not to say that the BPWCCUL is bad in any way. But there have been many irregularities that have happened in the last 10 years or so. Hopefully these will be examined and corrected. In the meanwhile this credit union is perhaps the best that the island has at the moment.

  3. hcalndre February 6, 2018 at 5:42 am

    Be aware of the coterie of this entity and remember CLICO was said to be in good hands.

  4. Tony Webster February 6, 2018 at 5:56 am

    The credibility, and integrity of the whole credit union movement…not just one…is paramount. Scrub de house clean.

  5. Greengiant February 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Waiting to exhale on this one.

  6. Tedd February 6, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    people may see this as negative but the positive as I see it is that once the supervisory committee became aware of the issue, through investigations and with an aim of having the appropriate action being taken against all involved in wrong doing. this is rare in Barbados and must be commended as a sign of proper management and supervision of our credit union,. this is far more than other private companies can boast of.

    I look forward to see what action is taken against all who have acted incorrectly and those who have tried to hide conflict of interests.

    further investigation need to be conducted with respect to the contract, particularly the price as it relates to fair market value.

    Also the location (which mostly suits persons with vehicles) is the best location as compared with speightstown where there is a bus stand as well as an abundance of parking.

  7. Mackar February 6, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    This is right from the CLICO play book. Move the payment by slight of hand. What will be nex.???

  8. hcalndre February 6, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    The properties and belongings should be seized if any wrong doings are founded, be given a Madoff justice, someone said its a rare case in Barbados.

  9. Helen Juanita Lynch February 6, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    Surely the credit union members know how much is being paid for the space?

    Does the rental paid compare favourably or unfavourably with other commercial spaces in the north?

    How about use? Are there as many members using this space compared to other rural branches?

    Has the credit union made a cost/benefit analysis to see whether this branch is “carrying its weight?”

    Is the branch in a convenient location for its members and potential new members?

    Has the credit union advertised the new location so that members and potential members are aware of its location, hours etc.?

  10. luther thorne February 6, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    I saw the Mile and Quarter Office and immediately it felt WRONG. I thought to myself – How odd ! But I dismissed it thereafter. Sometimes we pick up things without realizing.. I was thinking why not Speightstown where there is plenty space but zI now see. These people got to stop this nonsense though. TRANSPARENCY needed all around.


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