Sun | Sep 24, 2017

PC Bank probe still ongoing, a year later

Published:Monday | September 12, 2016 | 9:00 AMJovan Johnson
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda.

Almost one year after an audit uncovered the alleged misuse of millions of dollars of farmers' money deposited in the National People's Cooperative Bank (NPCB), the resulting investigation appears nowhere near completion.

According to Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda, while one report is complete, another is still being done and there's no deadline for that one to be submitted.

"When I got the report, I realised that it was a matter that required consultation with the Cabinet. And I took the matter to the Cabinet and the Cabinet instructed that I chair a subcommittee of the Cabinet to examine all the ramifications pertaining to that PC Bank," he told journalists at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.

"There's a preliminary report and there's another one due, and the moment I get that, we'll go [back] to the Cabinet."

The Agricultural Credit Board (ACB), the regulatory body for the PC banks, released the findings of an audit last September, which revealed, among other things, that loans approved and disbursed to one client, from members' deposits totalling $180 million, were in arrears.

Subsequently, there were revelations that about $665 million, or 21 per cent of savings, was unaccounted for.

That figure was disputed by Derrick Kellier, the agriculture minister at the time.

Samuda, meanwhile, was cryptic as to whether the Government would seek to get back all the money that was misused.

"It is the intention of the Government to ensure that the interests of the members are protected. That is the Government's commitment," he said.

In June, Samuda disclosed that a forensic audit triggered by the ACB's report, had been completed.

The bank's management and board were dismissed as a result of the ACB's findings that also showed that managers were awarding themselves loans, including in cases where they had not closed previous ones.

More than 200,000 farmers contribute to the 111-year-old NPCB, which also provides loans to micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com