Honouring Laws in the Breach
Yesterday the blogmaster allocated some time to listen to Minister Ryan Straughn’s (opening 40 minutes of the video posted) moving the second reading of the Amendment to Financial Service Commission (Amendment) Bill 2022. The purpose of the amendment was to validate a fee regime to support the Financial Services Commission (FSC) being financially self sufficient. The other reason was to address an issue of FSC Board being able to carry out its function if a board member is absent. There can be no disagreement that relevant financial regulation is important to protect citizens and maintain a sound financial environment. Over the years Barbadians have suffered financial loss with the failures of New India, Trade Confirmers and in recent years CLICO. The job to maintain a robust financial framework is never ending.
During Straughn’s contribution to the debate a few random thoughts came to mind:
◦ He spent some time addressing the need of government to respond to the emergence of digital currencies including crypto. The blogmaster wondered about the inadequacy of existing legislation to cater to gullible citizens who engaged in popular Ponzi schemes like Blessing Circles and others. Last year an official of the FTC indicated authorities were working to strengthen existing legislation. We wait.
◦ The release of the 2021 Auditor General (AG) report has again exposed the inadequacy of the oversight framework to address exceptions raised by the AG. It must be said that many of the AG’s findings do not mean money was stolen, it maybe a case of incompetence of personnel and an inefficient systems. The blogmaster recalls Straughn speaking to the 2019 Financial Management Act and how it was intended to demand greater accountability from State Owned Entities (SOE). It is fair to conclude after four years in government the legislation has not delivered what was intended. Concerned citizens should be worried why successive governments have been unable to enforce the intent of legislation on the books.
◦ On the BU platform concerns have been repeatedly posted about unacceptable delays of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) generating timely audited financial statement AND posting actuarial reviews. The NIS is arguably one of the most important SOEs given its importance to supporting quality of life for citizens in the golden years, a vulnerable time in the life cycle. What use has existing legislation served to ensure a robust oversight framework? Even when there was a duly constituted Public Accounts Committee (PAC) it was ineffective. Today there is no PAC.
The blogmaster recognizes the need to regulate the financial market with fit for purpose laws, however, one is forced to ask – with voluminous existing legislation are we better off for it given the current state of play? The takeaway is that it requires more than laws to create a harmonious and effective market place. We also need improved people management and enforcement of the laws already on the books.
Where do we go from here?