Claims of mismanagement at public service credit union to be investigated – GPSU

President Guyana Public Service Union Patrick Yarde – Samuel Maughn photo

– even as the union’s IMC maintains that there is no malpractice

By Jared Liddell

PRESIDENT David Granger has reportedly committed to launch an investigation into complaints of abuse and mismanagement lodged by the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) against the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union (GPSCCU) Interim Management Committee (IMC). The matter has been referred to the Department of Public Service.

GPSU was informed of this development in a letter dated Tuesday August 6, 2019. The Public Service Union, in a letter addressed to the President on July 17, 2019 had asked that an investigation be launched into the operations of the credit union under the management of the interim committee chaired by Trevor Benn.

The Public Service Union has accused the IMC of making large unauthorised expenditure on the basis that it failed to meet the guidelines that govern the allocation of monies for contracts.

Though the letter from President Granger was not released to the members of the Credit Union during a meeting at GPSU Headquarters on Thursday, GPSU Administrative Officer, Vera Naughton, read excerpts of it.

GPSCCU IMC Chairman Trevor Benn

“I have noted your complaint about the alleged abuse of public servants saving at the Guyana Cooperative Credit Union. I have noted also, your claim that the discrepancies started after the installation of the interim management committee. Your claim that the committee has been making decisions and awarding contracts without proper justification is also noted. I shall have this now investigated,” Naughton said as she read excerpts of the letter.

The President, according to GPSU, has referred the matter to the Minister of Public Service, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley. Minister Sarabo-Halley is expected to issue a response to the Public Service Union.

During the meeting, GPSU President, Patrick Yarde, said the Public Service Union is satisfied with President Granger’s response. Members, in attendance, took the opportunity to voice their concerns. Two members of the credit union complained that they have been unable to withdraw monies from their GPSCCU accounts although they had savings of over $100,000. One of the members, however, explained that the issue of not being able to withdraw her funds is now two years old.

But GPSCCU IMC Chairman said since the IMC took office, it has commenced the payment of the audit and supervision fees, and has made significant systemic changes that have benefitted both the members and staff of the GPSCCU.

Additionally, Benn refuted allegations of mismanagement of the credit union’s funds and proceeded to explain the necessity for the changes that were made.

In an interview on Wednesday, Trevor Benn was adamant that action taken by the IMC was in the interest of facilitating positive change in the overall performance of the GPSCCU. One major change, he explained, was the audit, which the previous management committee had neglected to do for some years. The IMC has started conducting retroactive audits and intends to complete same to date.

Benn stated that the staff now benefit from an updated labour agreement with the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU); he explained that this was new for the staff of the GPSCCU as the previous management committee, in its 10-year reign had neglected to ensure that its staff was governed by a labour agreement.

What baffles him, he said, was the fact that some of the previous management committee members served in a labour union and still made no effort to ensure that their staff members were covered by a labour agreement.

The IMC has also made provision for there to be an overhaul in the way the employees are remunerated and asserted that it was clear that the staff were not being adequately remunerated. Since the IMC acceded to office, it has employed a human resource specialist who worked to review the payment system, and salaries have been adjusted according to the recommendations.

The IMC, Benn disclosed, has not just focused its efforts on correcting structural shortcomings, but they have also sought to ensure that the building used to house the GPSCCU has undergone some remodelling and modernisation. Benn stated that members had complained about the deplorable state of the GPSU headquarters and the fact that the condition of the building would deter them from actually going to the building when they would have need to.

Members in attendance at the meeting at the GPSU – Samuel Maughn photo

The Chairman of the IMC explained that this was not the only change the IMC had made to benefit the members, but that it has ensured accessibility throughout the country in the form of temporary credit union outreaches, so as to ensure that the union’s out-of-town members have access to its services, without having to travel long distances.
He further stated that the IMC is moving to make permanent outposts within the various areas such as Linden, Berbice and Essequibo, to ensure its members have easy access.
In addition, the GPSCCU has increased the number of members’ children who receive bursaries. This year close to 100 bursaries were distributed.

The IMC chairman also disclosed that when it comes to providing training opportunities, it is moving in the direction of facilitating change within the staff to ensure that they are best equipped to serve in their official capacities. Benn explained that this was a welcome change in the internal body of the company, since the previous management committee had not afforded its staff opportunities to participate in such initiatives
“We just sent six staff members to the World Assembly in The Bahamas, and at least three of them have never travelled with the credit union before; one of them has 24 years of service, another one has 19 years of service and the third one has five, and if you look at the attendance history you would see that the committee members went every year,” Benn revealed.

Finally, Benn stated that the IMC is working feverishly to organise the next AGM which will have the power to grant permission to specific projects to take effect and also to facilitate the election of a new management committee.