Barbados Law Lecturer Slams Proposed new Transparency & Accountability Legislation

There are good points and bad points made the other night at the Savannah Hotel when ICAB, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados, held a lecture reviewing Government’s proposed legislation on Transparency & Accountability.

Lesley A Walcott went to Harrison College, she was one of my prefects at school, she says I drove her nuts - but not the way I hoped...

The lecture was delivered by Ms Lesley A Walcott who’s an Attorney At law and a Senior Law Lecturer at the faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies. During the period of 2006/2007 she was in Washington DC as an Adjunct Professor and a Visiting Scholar at the American University where she researched Financial Regulation. Also in 2007, she was Assistant Professor of Law at the Nova South Eastern University in Florida, USA where instructed comparative corporate governance.

For an individual, she sees the intended ITAL as probing into one’s private business and steep in punishment – five hundred-thousand dollars, five year’s in Dodd’s or both! The proposed laws attack the head and brain of organisations not the hands or feet where misappropriation is more likely in her view. While Trade unionists are considered Public figures, as well as Chairmen of Statutory boards, yet no Police officers nor Customs although there are guidelines pertaining to the Police Commissioner?

2nd from left is the author of the blog "Weighed In The Balance" Grenville Philips II who also found the presentation of great use

When you watch the video included, which gives highlights of her succinct discourse, she has a strenuous objection to {Officers} in possession of Property at a disproportionate value when compared to their Legitimate Income. Both Businesses & {Officers} must not be found Soliciting directly nor indirectly or you face the punishment of 500K, 5 years at Dodd’s or Both… There are hints of Anti-Insider Trading to allow even so far as Witness protection for revealing such activity inclusive of Bribery, and/or Collusion.

However, in Ms Walcott’s view any intention of laying a fine on those convicted under this ITAL should be proportionate to either an individual’s lifestyle or the Capital structure of the Company accused of Fraud. What the Bajan Reporter believes however, is a different kettle of fish… The regular cutter of sugar canes may not have any problem with these rules, but when you have a political aspirant or someone who is in touch with large sums of cash? Then we have a whole pile of objections starting to appear, supported with Latin and cases no one ever heard of until they were introduced as precedent so as to avoid harsh sentencing.

This gentleman thought the legislation was perfect, he stated he did not write it but felt it was airtight and needed to bring most Elected Officials to bear when declaring their funds

Nevertheless, some of her disputations have a genuine concern which has definite validity – who is placed on the Committee; what is the procedure in selecting it; what basis is the committee formed; how is the formation devised with what guidelines… There was a claim the Paper is available for perusal at the Barbados parliament website and I I found nothing, I also looked at the Government Portal site to double-check and still nought, so I welcome an URL from my readers to display a PDF for all & sundry to examine at leisure?

In a simplified summary of Ms Walcott’s objections, she openly stated that Bajans are “too malicious” and too much data of an individual is being sought. She feels the Bill should be circulated first among those whom the Bill is most likely to affect before even bringing near Parliament.

In this overly kinetic shot you learn that Ms Walcott's speech was very animated, which is why I left a great chunk of it in video format for readers to personally assess for themselves

Then, during the Q&A session, a legal cleric stated at the seminar how it has been uncovered that Drug lords have placed young people in their 20’s to gain legitimate employment at Financial Services so as to gain knowledge on how to unobtrusively launder funds taken from transactions of questionable natures. This legal partner also noted how a young Bajan who seemed to be a regular teller at a bank here, drives over to Crystal heights to buy a house in cash… The clerical officer also stated there has been a private sector board which had half a million left back in a project and the Chairman suggested to split it between Directors as a “Dividend“…

Incidents like these, in the young legal attaché’s belief, is why the ITAL is crucial for Barbados’ economy and business practices to remain as approved worldwide such as it is at the moment. Another participant stated that Barbados has no choice but to institute such regulations since it became a UN signatory to Anti-Corruption legislation in 1995 and 1996, and the clock for implementation is running out.

I decided to pose a series of inter-related queries and test the waters for different area where ITAL can apply – should laws related to Freedom of Information as well as Freedom of Expression not been ironed out BEFORE considering ITAL?

In the foreground in a blue shirt with tie, is ICAB's Executive director Reginald Farley, one time holder of the constituency where Denis Lowe now does nothing and is left in his Cabinet posting, also inert.

Her broad pastiche of a reply was in the affirmative; so I related the case where David Ellis got punished for quoting an e-mail when a listener wanted to know what – in essence – was the then Tourism Minister’s earning power? The query so angered “Barney” Lynch that he walked out of Brass Tacks and into one of the quickest Libel settlements this island ever knew – something like 6 months later and Starcom paid $60,000 to the former cabinet Minister who was in power at that moment…

In all fairness, this UWI Legal Lecturer wants to see the same flame held at the feet of Customs & Excise with the same passion as other Dept's listed in ITAL, but she sees no mention of Customs there at all?

This bit of inquisitiveness actually led her to stammer and she stated that’s a journalistic matter and her field of legal expertise would not allow her to answer that question too effectively, but ICAB’s Executive director was clearly annoyed at my Lynch reference. During the refreshments after, although no longer running for Parliament, Reginald Farley suggested that ITAL include Journalists, and I looked at him and said to bring it on as I am so poor that I have no fear of being audited – then he could not carry his riposte any further.

I do want the ITAL legislation brought to bear for Barbados, it is way overdue and not because we signed a document with the UN, but it will stop discrepancies which allow regular Bajans to be cast aside for irregular profits… When Mia Mottley declared her assets in parliament the other day and challenged the late David Thompson to do the same, many folk did not expect such a turn of play in the House but this should be the norm and not the exception!

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