At the end of December 2022, The Eleutheran Newspaper was contacted by a concerned customer of the One Eleuthera Cooperative Credit Union Limited (OECCUL), which until earlier in 2022, had offices located in Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound, Eleuthera.
The OECCUL, which voluntarily ceased operations in May of 2022 – as of December 30th, 2022 – had yet to allow customers access to the money in their accounts at closure.
Former chairman of the OECCUL board, Mr. Errol McPhee, during the first week in January 2023, communicated that all customers would receive ‘every dime back’, emphasizing, ‘no one will lose one penny in the credit union’.
He explained that the OECCUL did not voluntarily close because of a liquidity issue, and commented that at the time of closure, the local credit union was profitable, saying, “We were doing extremely well. We had 780 members, and had started to make a profit. We had started to move… We did not have any problems. We were very liquid.”
Mr. McPhee further explained that the OECCUL, which had been formally registered in March of 2016, was required by the Central Bank of The Bahamas – the regulator of co-operative credit unions, under the Bahamas Co-operative Credit Unions Act, to have ‘a certain amount’ of statutory reserve capital.
The local credit union had several meetings, he said, with Central Bank officials during 2021 – midst pandemic – about extending the time period to meet the capital requirements. “They had given us a deadline to come up with a certain amount of capital… We were not able to build up the amount of capital they required after the given time. As a result of that, they told us that we had to voluntarily close.”
According to chairman McPhee, a meeting was called with the membership of the OECCUL, where formal agreement was acquired for the ‘voluntary closure’.
The Bahamas Co-operative League Limited (BCLL), the apex body for all cooperative credit unions in The Bahamas are the liquidators for the OECCUL, since its voluntarily closure in May of 2022, said Mr. McPhee. The BCLL, he added, has overseen the process of liquidation, which has taken ‘quite a while’. The process, he described, included bringing in auditors, ‘to go through everything’, as well as sending out written communication to each member to have them confirm the balances on their accounts.
Early in December 2022, the general manager and deputy general manager of the BCLL were said to have visited the remaining office location of the OECCUL in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, and at this time, shared Mr. McPhee, he expressed to the liquidators that customers had been waiting ‘too long’ to have access to their funds, with the credit union.
On Thursday, January 12th, 2023, despite hopes that customers would have more information on when they would have access to their money with the OECCUL early in the new year, Mr. McPhee updated saying,”No, there hasn’t been any movement. As I mentioned, the Bahamas Co-operative League Limited – it is in their hands now, and they are going through the process of making sure that we have all the monies to payout everyone. That is the last status… I spoke with the general manager on Wednesday, January 11th. I asked her how far they are, and she said that they were going through it.” He added that the BCLL informed they would be meeting on the matter during the latter half of January, “…then they will get back to me, to see exactly where they go from there.”
The original rationale of the OECCUL, when the One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) supported its establishment in 2016, was said ‘to empower residents of Eleuthera by promoting savings, shareholdings, financial services and counseling, and encouraging Eleutherans to become owners and operators of their own financial institution’.
The first public meeting, to inform interested people in Eleuthera about the proposed credit union, was held in May of 2014 at the Cancer Society Wellness Center in Palmetto Point. The meeting was at that time led by the general manager of The Bahamas Co-operative League Limited, Stephanie Missick-Jones and Senior Compliance Officer from the Department of Cooperatives Development, Carolyn Moss.
The OECCUL was formerly registered and became official on Saturday, March 19th, 2016, when it held its first Annual General Meeting at the Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center in Tarpum Bay. An independent board of directors was also elected at that time.
Mr. McPhee, commenting on the closure of the OECCUL, shared, “My analysis of the whole situation, and being a part of it, is that although there is sufficient population, people joined [the OECCUL] slowly, and when they have now caught on [to the concept], that’s the time when the Central Bank said to us that we needed to have the capital at this particular time, and we were not able to do it… I was disappointed, and I understand the reason they gave – but they saw our potential to move to the next level and they knew we could grow.”