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PSC writes AG over Financial Institutions Bills; proposes amendments

With the unease over allowing the Guyana Revenue Authority to access the banking information of Guyanese citizens and business continuing, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has written to the Attorney General Basil Williams, outlining some possible amendments and safety nets.

The Financial Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2015 seeks to amend Section 63 of the Financial Institutions Act to permit disclosure of customer information by a financial institution to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), where a law so requires or where the revenue authority makes a lawful request or demand for the information.

In the letter, the PSC stated that it has some concerns relative to data protection and privacy rights.

“We are cognizant that the granting of legislative authority for access to citizens’ bank account data is not peculiar to Guyana and many countries around the world, particularly the more developed ones, have similar provisions in their legislation,” the letter to the Attorney General stated.

Albeit the existence of the legislation, it was noted, that jurisdictions where such legislation exists usually have corresponding provisions dealing with criteria for access and protection of the data once accessed or released.

“As a short term measure, the latter approach may be more prudent while we develop a more general data protection mechanism…Effectively, and in the absence of a Data Protection Act, we would prefer to see an Amendment which caters to these concerns, and corresponding Regulations guiding the Guyana Revenue Authority.”

The areas include criteria governing requests for access, notice to be served on citizens regarding intended request for access along with an indication of the law for which enforcement is being sought via such access and care and control which such data is in the custody of the Revenue Authority.

The PSC is also insisting that some amount of recourse available to citizens if said data is unlawfully released or published by the Revenue Authority

The Government has already admitted that no formal consultations were held with the private sector over the bill.