Write-offs haunt FINSAC

Published: Friday | July 29, 2011 Comments 0
Attorney Judith Clarke is marshalling evidence on behalf of the FINSAC Commission. - JIS
Attorney Judith Clarke is marshalling evidence on behalf of the FINSAC Commission. - JIS

The issue of write-offs for some FINSAC debtors, while other requests were ignored, was raised again at the enquiry.

In his first appearance before the enquiry in mid-July, former Minister of Water and Housing Dr Karl Blythe has insisted that the commission should review the write-offs.

Blythe has been contending that while other persons, including colleagues in the 1990s Parliament and Cabinet were given write-offs, his request for special consideration was ignored, although his assets exceeded his debts.

Last Friday, July 22, attorney for the commission, Judith Clarke, tried to find out from Campbell why the former owner of Little Pub in Ocho Rios, Keith Foote, was also denied special consideration despite paying a lump sum of J$26 million on his J$48-million debt, bringing his total payments to J$41 million.

"In light of the fact that some debtors were afforded write-offs of up to 98 per cent, are you able to assert that as regards Mr Foote, there was adherence to FINSAC's guiding principle that FINSAC must ensure consistent treatment for all debtors in the portfolio?" she asked Campbell.

However, attorney for FINSAC, Brian Moodie, intervened questioning whether oral evidence has ever been given at the enquiry by any debtor of write-offs of up to 98 per cent. He was supported by the attorney for the JRF, Sandra Minott Phillips, who said she did not recall any debtor giving such evidence.

Clarke responded that while Moodie could be excused for not recalling the evidence as he was not involved in the proceedings until this year, not so Minott Phillips who had preceded both of them at the enquiry.

"There is a document which, I believe, has been before the commission on the extent of the debt and the extent of the write offs," Clarke said.

Chairman of the Commission Worrick Bogle confirmed that a document with the information was submitted by Campbell prior to the involvement of both Clarke and Moodie in the case.

"I can assure you that the list was put in evidence, the list was dealt with, it is accorded an exhibit number and extracts from it was even published in the newspapers," Bogle said.

He was referring to media reports from February 4-5, 2010, listing some extensive write-offs, including a J$112-million write-off on a J$116-million loan and reduction of a debt from J$325 million to J$30 million, detailed on the list submitted to the commission by Campbell.

Clarke questioned what could have caused Foote's request for consideration to be rejected, after he paid the lump sum on his loan, and why was he not treated "consistently" with the debtors whose loans were written off.

She asked Campbell what were the normal banking practices that would be employed in determining the level and extent of the write-offs.

Campbell said normal banking practices would be used, including a review of the collateral available, payment history on the account, timeframe for payment and the debtor's ability to pay. However, the FINSAC boss could only produce a single inter-office memo sent to his predecessor, Patrick Hylton, by FINSAC consultant Curtis Bray, suggesting that the borrower had not paid back any of the principal on the loan.

"In 2000-2001, when the submission would have been put forward to the board, I would have expected that there would have been more information that would have been submitted to guide the decision," said Campbell.

"I am saying that from the files I have seen, this is the only document that I have seen now. But, it can't be that this was the only thing that was submitted to the board."

He offered to continue searching for more documents on Foote's case.

- JIS



 


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