The CL Financial bailout continues to be a major failure on any scale, both in the causes of the fiasco and especially the manner in which it has been handled.
This is the equation for a reality check:
Expenditure of Public Money
In May 2009, I wrote that the directors and officers of the CL Financial group should be required to file declarations under the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).
According to the IPLA, one of the classes of persons required to file declarations to the Integrity Commission is: "Members of the boards of all statutory bodies and State enterprises including those bodies in which the State has a controlling interest."
The CL Financial Shareholders Agreement (the Agreement), of 12th June, 2009, which I obtained by using the Freedom of Information Act—see at http://wp.me/pBrZN-bP—specifies at clause 3.1 that the board of directors of CLF shall consist of seven directors, four of which shall be nominated by the government. The government has been exercising its rights under this clause, so it is clear that the State's controlling interest in the CL Financial group is effective.
I have confirmed that key CL Financial directors have not been filing declarations under the IPLA.
Quite apart from the four companies named in the bailout Memorandum of Understanding of 30th January 2009 and the Agreement—ie CL Financial, CLICO, British American Insurance and Caribbean Money Market Brokers—it is also clear that CL Financial controls the other companies in the group.
This effective State control therefore extends to include enterprises which are majority-owned by CL Financial, such as Home Construction Ltd, Angostura Holdings Ltd, Republic Bank Ltd and Methanol Holdings Trinidad Ltd.
According to the April 3, 2012 affidavit of then minister of finance, Winston Dookeran, the public money committed to this colossal bailout is:
Para 21 (a) $5 billion already provided to CLICO;
(b) $7 billion paid to holders of the EFPA and
Para 22 $12 billion estimated as further funding to be advanced.
That is a total of $24 billion in public money being paid to satisfy the creditors of the CLF group.
I have written to both the Integrity Commission and the Minister of Finance to report my serious concerns on this unacceptable state of affairs. It simply cannot be right that the directors of this huge State-controlled group are allowed to escape the provisions of the IPLA. There must be proper transparency in matters of this kind, if good order is to be preserved in our society.
I also made a Freedom of Information application on May 11, 2012 to the Ministry of Finance to get four items which are listed here, along with the ministry's replies of 14th August:
1. CL Financial accounts and if those are not available, the figures on which the Minister of Finance has been relying. The reply is to ask me to provide further information as to what I mean.
2. The presentation made to Members of Parliament in September 2011 to brief them prior to the debate on the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill and the Purchase of Certain Rights and Validation Bill 2011.
The reply is to claim that the presentation is an exempt document which the ministry is therefore unable to provide.
The official presentation made to our Members of Parliament in this matter is deemed secret, which seems incompatible with the notion of a free, democratic society, so it will not rest there.
3. Details on the composition of the creditors of the CL Financial group, in particular EFPA holders. I was asking who was owed money and who got paid. That is at the centre of this issue.
The reply states that the information requested is likely to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. That is another aspect of this to be challenged.
4. Declarations filed by directors and officers of the CL Financial group under the IPLA. The reply points out that those declarations are secret, which is correct, but also goes on to state that this is not to be construed as an admission or denial that the IPLA applies to those directors and officers. Well I tell you.
The region's largest privately-held group of companies are now under State control, in a situation of huge insolvency, with no proper accounts and no declarations being filed by the directors.
This development is a serious peril to our Treasury. It must be a matter of the gravest possible concern to all right-thinking people that our fundamental integrity safeguards appear to have been circumvented or ignored in a matter of this size and consequence.
• Afra Raymond www.afraraymond.com is president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) and managing director of Raymond & Pierre Limited www.raymondandpierre.com.