The crime situation in Barbados makes for a good talking exercise when we want to engage in one of our favourite Bajan past times – feeling as though we are higher and better than. The boys on the block are responsible for crime, single mothers, ‘ghetto communities’, everything and everybody except we, ourselves.
We absolve ourselves of personal responsibility and go about our lives feeling that we can live in the midst of wrongdoing and decadence. I think this is a part of the societal slide that we are facing in Barbados. Right has become wrong and wrong right.
Those few lines I found myself thinking as I sat in attendance at the annual general meeting of the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union (BPWCCUL) about three weeks ago. As many readers know, I was a part of a process by some concerned members of the BPWCCUL to get answers and explanations to a series of queries that we raised. I had stopped writing about the matter or speaking about it in public because I thought that would show good faith on my part. I worked with the credit union, attended meetings and the outcomes of the process have been mixed.
On the one hand, I was happy that after going through the dismissal and hostility that I endured, an investigation was launched into some of the matters of concern. On the other hand, I am quite disappointed with the way in which the outcomes of the investigation have been approached by the Board of the BPWCCUL.
I have decided to share the outcomes here with readers for two reasons. First, I think that as many members as possible need to get the information and start paying attention to their institution as possible. The second reason is that I am going to use this public forum to call for the Board of the BPWCCUL to treat to the BPWCCUL and the management of its assets with seriousness.
The concerned members called for a special general meeting in October last year. There was a perceived attempt to rewrite the agenda of the meeting but the members prevailed and there were questions which we managed to get investigated. The outcomes are as detailed below. Members can find this information in the 2019 Supplementary Report which should be available from any branch of the BPWCCUL.
The issue of the Mile and Quarter branch
A branch was established at Mile and Quarter in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The initial cost associated with opening the branch was to be BBD $528, 000. The final cost of the project was over BBD $2.2 million. The building is not owned by the BPWCCUL. There were concerns about oversight and procurement with both functions having several significant gaps.
The issue of exorbitant staff training costs
Investigations revealed that a Master’s degree costing BBD $300, 000 was approved for a staff member. The final cost of the degree was more in the estimated range of BDS $400, 000.
The issue of use of credit union vehicles by elected members
Elected officials are not entitled to company cars in the credit union movement. It was found that an elected official was allowed to drive a car while his personal car was not working. This is not in line with the Vehicle Policy for the BPWCCUL.
The issue of nepotism
The BPWCCUL accepted that there were several instances of familial connections among staff and these stood to cause conflicts of interest, potentially real or perceived.
The matter of rental costs
CAPITA currently rents space in the building owned by the Credit Union League on Collymore Rock. While not accepting that the current rate was exorbitant, it was noted that the contract is soon to end and that in line with best practice, market research should be conducted to ensure the most competitive rates are secured.
It was explained that the BPWCCUL is the largest credit union in Barbados and that, as such, it had an obligation to cooperative sustenance and the Credit Union League. While I agree with this assertion in principle, the BPWCCUL is, first and foremost, responsible for the prudence that ensures the safety of its members. Anything that threatens that security is antithetical to the fiduciary responsibility of the BPWCCUL Board to members.
The matter of Capita Acquisitions by the BPWCCUL
It was revealed that there was a members’ resolution at a special general meeting in July 2007 which allowed the Board to purchase assets without having to return to the membership of the BPWCCUL. Unless this resolution is treated to, buildings and other assets can be purchased and the membership simply notified subsequently.
These are the answers we got. This is the state of play at the largest credit union on the island. I have said before, and I will continue to say, that the membership of the BPWCCUL has to unequivocally set the tone and direction for this institution moving forward. Each and every one of us as members have a personal responsibility to ensure that we call out problematic behaviour before it becomes ingrained and uncontrollable.
We are not too far past the global financial meltdowns of the 2000s. The time to question is now. There is never a stupid question but there can be a question that is too late.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.