Govt to audit all co-ops, credit unions

– in bid to root out corruption, financial mismanagement

Labour Minister 
Joseph Hamilton

In keeping with the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government’s public stance on transparency and accountability, a series of integrity audits will be carried out on all co-operatives and credit unions to root out any corruption and misuse of funds.
According to a tender from the Ministry of Labour, the Department of Co-Operatives is seeking Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from audit firms who will carry out audits into co-operatives, friendly societies and credit unions in all 10 administrative regions. The EoIs must be submitted by March 25.
This audit involves a probe into their operations, procedures and the very viability of these organisations, which run on contributions from the workers they represent. According to the tender, the audits will be validating how financially responsible the management of these societies is.
Additionally, it will be validating the financial integrity of their funded and non-funded programmes. The audits will also be shining a spotlight on non-compliance issues hindering these societies, while coming up with recommendations to strengthen their ability to secure funds in the future.
Lastly, the audits will serve the purpose of compiling a database of viable and active co-operatives and credit unions, as well as determining their assets, ownership and the beneficiaries they serve.
When the PPP Government got into office, the issue of mismanaged credit unions had almost immediately reared its head. Last year, an audit into the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Cooperative Credit Union (AT&GWU) discovered $10 million in cash unaccounted for.
Such was the discovery, that the Ministry of Labour had contacted the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to assist in the investigation. It was also announced that the Ministry itself would take control of the credit union.
In 2019, AT&GWU was one of a number of unions to be red-flagged in a gazette notice from the Trade Union Registry, which brought to light all trade unions that have outstanding financial returns.
In fact, the notice had revealed that over 50 trade unions have outstanding returns. Some outstanding returns date all the way back to before World War II, as was the case with AT&GWU, which won the right to be the sole bargaining body for the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) back in 2009 and has owed returns since 1939.
One of the most recognisable names on that 2019 list was the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU). According to the notice, the GPSU had not submitted annual returns from 1949 to 1972; from 1975 to 1995; for three years from 1997; from 2003 to 2009 and from 2012 up to 2017.
Another recognisable name on the notice was the Guyana Labour Union (GLU), which represents certain categories of municipal workers at City Hall. According to the notice, the union owes annual returns for intermittent periods dating from 1960 all the way up to 2017.
The National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), whose constituency caters largely to sugar workers, was also featured on the list having outstanding returns from 1947 to 1969 and then from 1978 to 2018.