An uneasy feeling!!!

There was a recent letter which appeared in THE NEW TODAY that touched on certain alleged happenings at the premier banking institution in the sub-regional grouping known as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The unsigned letter was addressed to the Prime Minister of St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in his capacity as Chairman of the Eastern Caribbean Monetary Council and written under the headline banner, “TERRORISM AT THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN CENTRAL BANK”.

The letter came from a concerned employee of the bank and leveled a number of damning criticisms at the way things are happening within the ECCB.

This newspaper shared the letter with a number of persons who are familiar with the bank and got confirmation that the issues raised are “serious and real stuff” that can only come from someone with a good knowledge of the workings of the ECCB.

If this is the case then the Ministers of Finance of those OECS member states who often hold the Prime Ministership in the respective member territories should be extremely concerned and have a duty to ask the present Governor, Sir Dwight Venner for some kind of explanation.

Some of the points raised in the letter were the following:

* The Bank is in very serious trouble. Productivity is at an all time low, employees are leaving at an unprecedented rate, its ability to attract new quality employees is at an unprecedented low, some departments of the Bank have now become totally ineffective, most persons in management are job hunting

* The Board is aware of what is happening and yet is not taking the necessary action to arrest the situation. This inaction on the part of all involved, the directors, the Governor and the members of Council is on the verge of sinking our institution.

The NEW TODAY notes that the ECCB is the same financial institution that is playing a critical role in the 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the government in Grenada to arrest a serious fiscal situation.

Are we getting the best advice from the ECCB if the bank is now suffering from a paucity of competent and high-level staff members?

One of the most damning criticisms made in the letter concerns the possible loss to the bank of millions of dollars over the decision that was taken to introduce a new operating software system

Here is what the letter said: “ The truth of the matter is that most of the members of the management team are of the opinion that the software chosen is inadequate for the Bank. The software came at a cost of in excess of US$2 million to the Bank and is less capable of handling the work of the Bank than the software that it is replacing.

“In fact we were reliably informed that the Bank was told by the software company that SAP (software programme) had never been used in a Central Bank environment and thus may not be adequate for the Bank. Employees regard that decision as the largest waste of money that the Bank has ever suffered and anticipate it will be another of the Bank’s big failure. That tragic point is rapidly approaching”.

That is not all. The letter went on to make a few salient points that should concern each and everyone in the sub-region.

* This year the Bank for the first time in its history is reporting a loss of $18 million.

Our investigations are pointing us in a very disturbing direction.

It appears that many of the Permanent Secretaries in the respective territories who serve on the Board of Directors of the ECCB are docile and very reluctant to ask serious questions to those in whose hands have been entrusted the task to run the bank in the interest of the OECS governments and their people.

A former employee of the bank indicated to us that these Directors are more per-occupied with the hefty fees that are paid to them for attending Board meetings rather than upsetting the status quo.

As the writer of the letter said: “Board members cannot be allowed to continue to collect board fees only to make the easy decisions and leave the hard ones”.

“The time has come for new leadership, new ideas, new enthusiasm, new initiatives, new methods and new people in key positions. We have seen this kind of change take place on a regular basis at all the other Central Banks in the Region. We however, continue to do the same thing, the same way, with the same people and expect a different result. That will not happen. Hard decisions have to be made by real leaders to propel our Bank and our Region forward”.

THE NEW TODAY is attempting to get a reaction to these serious issues that were raised from the current Governor of the bank, Sir Dwight Venner who is held in very high esteem in some quarters in the region.

This is important in light of a recommendation put on the table in the letter by a clearly disgruntled and totally dissatisfied staff member of the ECCB.

The suggestion goes at the heart of good governance and transparency at the bank that has been dominated by Sir Dwight for so many years.

It is this: “Very serious consideration must be given to discontinuing the practice of the Governor being the Chairman of the Board so that among other things, grievances within the Bank that involve the Governor can be directed directly to the Chairman.

“It is a bad practice for the director in charge of the day to day operations of an organisation to also be the Chairman of the Board. History has shown that it is a perfect recipe for problems for the organisation”.

 THE NEW TODAY submits this for the consideration of not PS Finance, Timothy Antoine who is the Director of Grenada on the ECCB Board but to Prime Minister Mitchell in his capacity as Minister of Finance and a key player on the Monetary Council.

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