Director of the Apma Financial Investment Centre (AFIC) Barnabas Tabi was served with an order yesterday afternoon to hand in all files, keys, and assets of AFIC to the Registrar of Cooperatives and refrain from all dealings with AFIC in Port Vila or any of its branches.
The Registrar of Cooperative, Ridley Joseph authorised the order following a decision to dissolve the Committee of AFIC.
Manager Compliance and Assistant Registrar, Joe Iauko, explained that the Office of Cooperatives made the decision following a lot of complaints they were receiving from members of AFIC.
Despite words of assurance from the Director of AFIC himself last November, a lot of AFIC customers were reportedly confused and brought their frustrations to social media and questioning why they were not able to withdraw their money but were advised that they could only withdraw a certain amount of their money.
Investigations undertaken by Cooperatives revealed that AFIC allegedly failed to comply with recommendations that were brought to the attention of that financial institution following an audit in 2016.
Other interesting findings of the Cooperatives showed that AFIC is operated allegedly without a board of director.
All decisions were undertaken allegedly by the director himself. This has led to alleged unreliable decision including decisions of lending money to non-members.
Even Barnabas Tabi allegedly borrowed huge money from the institution to fund various projects under Bujunbana Holdings, a business registered under the name of Mr Tabi. There was also alleged over borrowing from some of its members which led to short fall in cash.
Operating a savings and loans business without a committee is defeating the whole principle component of Cooperatives which is promoting working togetherness and having the members as its owners, Iauko said.
In a letter addressed to Barnabas Tabi, Director of AFIC, the Cooperative Registrar stated, “In exercise of the power vested in me, under the Cooperative Act CAP 152, Part 11, Section 58 (1), (a), I am satisfied that the Committee of the Apma Financial Investment Centre Cooperative Savings and Loan Society is not performing its functions in a proper and business like manner and that in the circumstances of the case, it is fit that I as the Registrar of Cooperatives make this order to dissolve the existing committee.
“Further, in exercise of the power vested in me, under the Cooperative Societies (Rules) Order No. 37 of 1987 Subsidiary Legislation, Section 26 (1), I hereby order your removal from the office you are currently occupying and all dealings of the Apma Financial Investment Centre Cooperative Savings and Loans, throughout the country.”
Accordingly, Cooperative Registrar Ridley uses his power in compliance to Section 58, 1 (b), and appointed Hillary Waqanitoga, the Loans Officer to AFIC, to be the Interim Manager until such time when the Registrar sees fit to establish a Board of Directors to oversee AFIC Cooperative Savings and Loans.
In her capacity as the Administrator, Mrs. Waqanitoga was instructed to work with Compliance Manager of Office of the Registrar of Cooperatives & Business Development Services (ORCBDS) to fulfil recommendations, work with the Reserve Bank Vanuatu to fulfil recommendations as per RBV report, and ensure loan repayments are made from individuals and businesses including Bujunbana Holdings. She was also tasked to produce monthly progressive reports or as requested by the Registrar, she must be prepared to work with a Commission of Inquiry which will be appointed soon, take control of all AFIC branches and perform any other duties as required by the Registrar.
The dissolution of the Committee of AFIC and appointment of the Administrator/ Interim Manager became effective as of yesterday afternoon.
Barnabas Tabi founded AFIC in 2013 as a Cooperative Savings and Loans. It boasts to have 49 branches across the country with thousands of members.