In 1984, Winston Hall entered the house of Cyril Sisnett intending to burglarize the property. Sisnett, however, ended up dead after the home invasion and Winston Hall was one of a quartet subsequently charged for murder.
Hall never denied his part in the burglary but found the murder charge hard to swallow because he maintained that he had neither a part in the plot to murder nor the actual commission of the same. Hall went on to evade lawful custody at every possible opportunity to become one of Barbados’ most notorious criminals.
Fast forward to 2018 Barbados, at the crossroads of the two Barbadoses and suddenly we appear to have been a very unjust society with respect to Winston Hall or we seem to be sliding further into the quagmire with respect to many things on this little Island.
Only two weeks ago I made the point that the connection between the alternative Barbados and the original Barbados is a type of economic activity that is beneficial to both Barbadoses. The events of the last few weeks have further revealed some of the deep seated and long-standing issues present in Barbados itself, far less those now clearly defining themselves in how the two Barbadoses are linked by the underground economy.
Barbados suddenly has a problem of making it ‘look good’. The problem has racial overtones in some cases, but in others, it is simply greed and an unwillingness to change and accept best practices at play. Let me discuss the non-racial elements of the problem of ‘making it look good’ using the largest credit union movement in Barbados, the Barbados Public Workers’ Co-Operative Credit Union (BPWCCUL).
Recently, some questions were asked of the Barbados Public Workers’ Credit Union in this press. At the annual general meeting in June, it was confirmed to members that an investigation was ongoing about elements related to the Mile and Quarter branch of the entity. The membership was informed that the governance structure would be changing within Barbados’ most affluent credit union but not without the engagement of the members.
Imagine my surprise as a member of said Credit Union to discover that by email dated Thursday, July 26, 2018, staff was informed of a number of changes to be made to the Credit Union management structure. Although the email indicates that permission for the changes was given by the parent Board of BPWCCUL, there is no indication of how the general membership, the supreme body of the Credit Union, was engaged.
Given the nature of the current investigation and the concerns of members about governance structures in the credit union, these changes, in the absence of consultation from the general membership, give the credit union the problem of it not looking good. The email did not indicate if the changes were given the blessing of the Financial Services Commission or the Central Bank, but based on my limited knowledge of some financial best practices, I would be hard pressed to see how approval could be granted.
The proposal is that the group procurement department be subsumed under the Chief Financial Officer. The only thing more alarming than that fit was when I discovered in June that Barbados’ largest credit union did not have a procurement department. I do not think that creating one and ‘flinging’ it under the Chief Financial Officer does the best justice to transparency and governance within the group.
A new position has been created for a head of shared services under which there is a hodge-podge of very diverse and unrelated functions. This person is being charged with everything from group collections and recoveries to the call centre, group facilities management and group project management. There is no set of overarching core skills that can drive the qualification that such a person should have.
More concerning to me is a number of consolidations and seeming omissions with respect to the functions of compliance and risk within BPWCCUL and its subsidiaries. Through the creation of a new post, Head of Risk and Compliance, the risk and compliance functions of the Public Workers have been collapsed. I do not think that this is adequately in line with the Basal Committee on Banking Supervision, the standard to which Barbados requires its financial institutions to reach.
The Basal Committee best practice is for three lines of defence in governance. Risk management and compliance are two separate functions on the second tier. Internal audit is the third line of defence. Under the new structure of the BPWCCUL, the internal auditor has been promoted but the risk and compliance functions have been subjugated with the inclusion of another bureaucratic tier of reporting.
Given the investigation carried out earlier this year, it almost seems as if there was a punishment meted out, since the inclusion of this new manager may amount to summary dismissal if there is a person currently acting in the risk and compliance roles. The BPWCCUL is facing a major problem of making it ‘look good’.
The email about the changes in the BPWCCUL structure was accompanied by a diagrammatic version of the organizational chart. It struck me that in all the redesign, the charity arm of the Credit Union is still not clearly accounted for with respect to oversight and governance. An unbroken like between the charity arm and the Board of Directors seems to suggest that there is direct contact between the two entities and this simply does not seem like best practice to me.
Where exactly are we going in Barbados? Do we want to come up to international standards of best practice with respect to fraud, investor protection, anti-money laundering and nepotism? Or are we happy to keep things as they are? The two Barabdoses no longer only revolve around race and class. There are some new ‘Massas’ in town, complete with mills on their property and all.
(Marsha Hinds is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: [email protected])