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GTUC, PSC call on govt to strengthen anti-money laundering systems

Calls ratcheted up Friday for government to take steps to put in place systems to effectively combat a range of financial crimes and reduce the cost of doing business

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) said the recent passage of amendments to the 2009 Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act by the new government was not enough and that steps should be put in place to strengthen the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

“The Action Plan included a commitment to ensuring a fully operational and effectively functioning financial intelligence unit, the establishment of effective measures for customer due diligence and financial transparency and the implementation of an adequate supervisory framework,” said the business organisation in a statement.

For its part, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), wants the coalition-led administration to take urgent steps to establish the constitutionally required Procurement Commission and the Integrity Commission.

The GTUC said the coalition needed to make good on its calls that it had made while in opposition to set up those mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability. “Both are hinged to countering money launderingand financing of terrorism. As such establishment must be a matter of immediacy. Where the PPP regime failed to get the important pillars of governance in order, it behoves this administration to fix the anomalies in the system,” said the trade union body.

According the TUC, the Procurement Commission would ensure the integrity of government’s contracts and the Integrity Commission public officials.

The establishment of the Procurement Commission would require the receipt of government and opposition nominees by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), their approval by two-thirds of the House and subsequent ratification by the President.

The Procurement Commission and several constitutional rights commissions could be called into question because the constitution was amended by the Parliament rather than, according to the High Court, by a referendum. The constitutional amendment to provide for presidential term limits has been struck down by the High Court on the grounds that only a referendum and not the Parliament could amend that and several other sections of the constitution.

The PSC said it was deeply disappointed to learn that Guyana’s status with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) although the law has not been amended.

The business organisation acknowledged and congratulated government for amending the AML/CFT Act but noted that the implementation of an Action Plan agreed to by Guyana since October 2014 was key to preventing the country from coming under heavy scrutiny. “The implementation of this Plan remains crucial to the removal of the country from any list of countries that need to be monitored by the FATF and, until all the elements agreed to have been effectively dealt with, transactions emanating from Guyana will continue to be subject to additional scrutiny,” he said.

Bankers have said that greater scrutiny of money transfers in and out of Guyana results in an increased cost of doing business.

“The PSC is deeply concerned with regard to being on this monitoring list by FATF and we call on government to urgently take the steps necessary to remedy these strategic AML/CFT deficiencies so that Guyana can be removed from the monitoring list,” said the business representative.

The GTUC, however, said still being on the monitoring list was nothing new because Mr. Roger Hernandes, CFATF’s Financial Advisor, who visited Guyana in February 2014 had informed that this status will likely remain for a minimum of two years, with removal contingent on implementation/enforcement of the laws.

Saying that that was because of the “dilatory tactics” by the then PPPC administration dating back to 2009, the GTUC called on the APNU+AFC coalition-led administration to take the necessary steps to ensure accountability by honouring the  obligations under international AML/CFT conventions. “It is only then Guyana’s monitoring status is likely to change. For the AML/CFT law is governed not by gut-feeling but a body of rules that guides implementations and concurrence.”