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.”