Trevor Benn was ousted as Chairman of the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Unit (GPSCCU) because he also wanted to simultaneously hold the post of Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He had also, among other things, beached the organisation’s confidentiality policy on numerous occasions.
This was revealed by a majority of GPSCCU’s Board members at a press conference held at the credit union’s Hadfield Street, Georgetown headquarters on Monday to “correct misinformation” being peddled about Benn’s removal.
At a recent meeting, the Management Committee of the GPSCCU passed a No-Confidence Motion against Benn. But although he was removed as Chairman, Benn remains a member of the Management Committee.
Secretary of GPSCCU’s Management Committee, Gillian Pollard on Monday explained that the relationship between Benn and other Directors began to slide after he lobbied among Board Members to have him hold both the positions of Chairman and CEO.
This, she noted, would make Benn answerable to himself and give him ultimate power and authority.
Pollard said that many of the Directors refused to accept Benn’s proposal “based on its illegality and the fact that the governing co-op laws do not allow us to do this”. She added that subsequently a motion was put to the Committee of Management (CoM) by GPSCCU’s Vice Chairman, Patrick Mentore to have the CEO and Chairman positions merged. But the motion was voted down, she said.
The interim Vice Chairman is currently performing the duties of the Chairman. Pollard also addressed the recent appointment of Adeola Griffith-Lewis as the GPSCCU’s CEO. She said, “The organisation structure was revised to a Chief Executive Officer instead of a Secretary/Manager. It was agreed and approved at the Board level based on a recommendation that was sent by the Administrative Sub-Committee to advertise the post internally.”
She related that it was further decided that the panel for selection of the CEO post would consist of Administrative Sub-Committee members, the Chairman or Vice Chairman, and a member from the Credit Union League. Both Benn and the Vice Chairman declined to be part of the panel, she said, adding that the Board by majority gave approval for the Chairperson of the Credit and Loans Committee and a member of the Finance Sub-Committee to be on the panel.
According to her, six persons from within the GPSCCU initially applied for the CEO post but one of the applicants later withdrew. Pollard noted that through a “transparent and thorough process” the panel recommended that Griffith be appointed as Chief Executive Officer.
Meanwhile, Benn is questioning the legality of the motion of no-confidence against his leadership as Chairman. In fact, he maintains that the No-Confidence Motion is null, void, and of no effect because the correct procedures as outlined in the Co-operative Societies Act were not followed.
Addressing reporters from a catwalk on Hadfield Street, he described the motion of no-confidence as a “coup d’état”, adding that “I am at a loss why this may have happened”.
Since 2021, Benn said that he has been performing the duties of CEO unofficially while still carrying out duties as the elected Chairman of the Management Committee. He said that several months ago, he approached the CoM to merge the positions of CEO/Chairman.
“The CoM voted against this request. The CoM then requested that the position be advertised internally. I decided against applying for the post since if I was the successful candidate, I would have to relinquish my position on the CoM,” Benn added. He noted that the Human Resource Department was solely tasked with the CEO recruitment process, and at no time had he “instructed or inserted” himself.
At the end, he said he was given a one-page document with scores and a recommendation for the position.
But Benn pointed out that when he requested the score sheets to support the recommendation, the interviewing panel refused to provide them. Under Griffith’s stewardship as GPSCCU’s Senior Finance Officer, approximately $100 million was reportedly unaccounted for.
Also at the presser, Pollard and Board member Jermaine Hermanstyne said that it was brought to their attention that confidential information about the GPSCCU was made public by Benn. They said that the information was being discussed on a popular online programme that was “villainising members and using derogatory names to describe Directors of the Board”.
However, Benn pointed to several instances in which private information was leaked.
In one case, he said, “The HR Division had reason to investigate a staff member for allegedly submitting false receipts for meals and gas. The CoM instructed the HR Division to discontinue the investigation of the staff member and have him return to work. This information was known by persons outside of the Committee before it was properly discussed by the CoM.”
Highlighting another occurrence, Benn added, “A meeting with the Minister of Labour arranged by members of the CoM, I became aware of the meeting several days before the formal invitation was received. The meeting date and agenda were correct as communicated by the non-member.”
He went on to say that many members of the credit union have sent him messages and have also called him indicating that Loan Committee members are saying that he is “holding up” their application by not signing.
He also noted a case in which information was posted on social media by a pastor associated with a member of the CoM on the voting outcome of a meeting held on April 21. “It was the first time I saw the information,” said Benn.
Another Board Member, Attorney-at-Law Leslyn Noble told reporters that the motion of no-confidence is valid as the correct procedure as outlined under Rule 43 of the co-op law, was followed. In closing, Pollard said that the Board is committed to providing the credit union with good governance and leadership through the appointment of the CEO as well as the development of corporate policies, procedures, and controls necessary for the prosperity of members.
In doing so, we will strive to ensure that everyone involved with the management and operation of the credit union act honestly, in good faith, and in the best interest of the credit union and our members,” she assured.
Benn, on the other hand, is of the firm conviction that the motion against him is as a result of his attempts to rid the credit union of corrupt practises.
Benn, a former Head of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), was elected Chairman of the GPSCCU in 2021 after his team won all the spots on the 12-member CoM. The GPSCCU is gearing up to host its Annual General Meeting (AGM) for 2021 as soon as the audit for that year is completed.
Pollard has since advised the Committee to elect a new Chairperson as soon as possible. This will be discussed at a Board meeting scheduled for Saturday.