Wed | Jul 17, 2019

'Not one cent more for FINSAC report' - Gov't takes hard line in the face of a request for more money

Published:Sunday | January 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
President of the Association of Finsac’d Entrepreneurs Yola Gray-Baker.

The long wait for the report from the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) Commission is set to drag on as a stalemate has reportedly developed between the Andrew Holness administration and the commission.

More than seven years after the commission ended its sittings and with more than $150 million spent, government sources say a demand for additional funds to complete the report has been rejected by the administration, which has vowed that no more money will be allocated to complete the report.

"To the best of my knowledge, the commission is still asking for more money. And I can tell you that it will not get a red cent more. This is crazy, man. Other ways have to be found to handle the issue, but allocating more money is not going to happen," said a Sunday Gleaner source with ties to the Government.

According to the source, the commission has given a list of reasons why the report has not been completed, including the death of a connected individual.

 

NO JUSTIFICATION FOR MORE MONEY

 

The sources say those supporting spending more money to complete the report have made comparisons with the payment made to the commissioners of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. But that position has been rebuffed by the Holness administration.

"Given that all sides were heard in the Tivoli enquiry, this enquiry, with many of the important parties not participating, the two could not be treated in the same way," said one source.

"There is just no justification for more money to be given to them, given that the Government does not even know what the commissioners have. Not even a sheet of paper has been presented so far. So, I cannot see how a credible case can be made for more money," added the government source.

The Government's position has been endorsed by president of the Association of Finsac'd Entrepreneurs, Yola Gray-Baker, who told The Sunday Gleaner that she has been lied to on many occasions about the status of the report.

"In 2017, when I went to the Ministry of Finance, I was told by a lady in the minister's office that the report was ready and was sent to the governor general for him to make the decision when it would be sent to Parliament. That was 2017.

"Then I wrote to the prime minister and sent a copy of it to the Ministry of Finance with a list of questions, and also indicating that I was told that the report was ready. The prime minister's office responded to say that I should go back to the Ministry of Finance.

"By that time, Audley Shaw was no longer minister of finance, it was Dr Nigel Clarke, and I have no intention of going back there," said Gray-Baker.

She said the statements that the report was incomplete in 2018 were news to her because she was told that the report was done.

According to Gray-Baker, for the amount of money spent, at least a preliminary report should have been produced.

"They have received more than what is essential. And telling you that they need more money is an excuse they are giving. They should get no more money. But outside of that, I have heard other things why it (report) can't come out," added Gray-Baker.

She said she was told that one individual had demanded more money but she was not sure whether the person was a commissioner.

A commission of enquiry into the meltdown of the financial sector in the 1990s and the role of FINSAC was one of the rally cries of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), then led by Bruce Golding in the lead-up to the 2007 general election.

Following the party's victory at the polls, money was allocated in 2009 Estimates of Expenditure to begin the sittings of the commission.

The JLP lost the 2011 general election, and new finance minister in the then Portia Simpson Miller administration, Dr Peter Phillips, made it clear that the Government would not allocate any additional money for the commission, and instead requested that commissioners present what they had for examination in 2012.

With the JLP returned to power in 2016, Shaw, who was back as finance minister, in November approved a revised budget of $58.3 million for the completion of the report and made a recommendation to the governor general that the commissioners be given three more months to complete their work.

At that time, Minister of Information Ruel Reid told a post-Cabinet media briefing that the timelines for the completion of reports from enquiries such as FINSAC could only be approximated, given the volume of work.

Parliament had approved an allocation of $35.7 million in the first supplementary estimates for 2016-17 to complete the report.

The FINSAC Commission of Enquiry was set up in 2008 and its sittings held in 2009. The commission was mandated to consider the cause of the financial sector meltdown in the 1990s and examine the appropriateness of the actions taken by FINSAC in dealing with delinquent borrowers.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com