The board of the island’s largest credit union today hit back at those behind claims that its president Raphael Holder has been guilty of possible conflict of interest.
A story published by Barbados TODAY on February 5, 2018, stated that the supervisory committee of the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union Limited (BPWCCUL) had confirmed that it was giving top priority to a probe into claims that Holder might have breached 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 at Mile-And-A-Quarter, St Peter.
But today, Group Chief Executive Officer Clordina Alleyne was adamant that the claims were untrue.
“The public should therefore be cautious in drawing inferences as to the integrity of our president Raphael Holder, the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union Limited, its board of directors, elected committee members, management and members as well as CER Holdings Inc and its directors,” Alleyne said in a statement.
She said it was unfortunate that the “untruth” was published in that the information could tarnish the credit union’s good name and that of all others associated with the non-banking financial institution.
“The Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union Limited remains a strong, vibrant and open organization. Such openness is evident in the fact that the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union Ltd investigates complaints, even if those complaints are made by anonymous persons and are not supported by a scintilla of evidence,” the CEO said in defence of her organization’s reputation.
Alleyne also noted that the openness was also evident in the fact that members have the opportunity to express their views on any matter.
In a separate letter to Deputy General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Dwaine Paul, which the BWU official had said then he had not yet seen, but a copy of which had been 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.”
But today the Alleyne sought to defend the organization’s management reputation and to distance it from any questionable decisions.
“The Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union Ltd is on a solid foundation, is properly managed and commits to providing its members with opportunities to enhance their financial, social and economic well-being, which are hinged on cooperative principals. Such opportunities are supported by sound decisions made at board level, elected committees and management level and are often buttressed with advice from experts in their respective fields where necessary,” she told Barbados TODAY.
On the night of February 5, Holder told Barbados TODAY he was 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 said then.
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.
The Deputy General Secretary of the BWU had also 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.