Open letter to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad & Tobago

Anthony Pierre
Anthony Pierre, president of ICATT

From: Afra Raymond <afra@tstt.net.tt>
Date: Sun, Oct 18, 2009 at 4:19 PM
Subject: ICATT and the CL Financial bailout
To:  Anthony Pierre, President

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you, as President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad & Tobago, to urge your involvement in the calls for greater transparency and accountability in the bailout process involving the CL Financial group.

Anthony, on the many occasions on which we have interfaced, I developed considerable respect for your integrity and sense of purpose.  Most recently, I took note of your critical intervention on the proposed new regulatory regime for the credit union movement.

I am of the view that we citizens and civil society organisations, such as ICATT, need to be active in promoting higher standards of professional and public conduct.  I know that those are values within which we can find common ground, because in so many respects we can do better.  Yes, we can.

As you know, I have been publishing a critical review of the CL Financial bailout in the pages of the Business Guardian and that now forms the core of my blog at www.afraraymond.com.  The collapse of the CL Financial group is certainly the largest financial crisis to beset our nation and the first MoU of 30th January 2009 was widely welcomed as offering relief to depositors and policyholders.  I expressed doubts on the grounds that we seemed to be ignoring moral hazard.

The second MoU, signed on 12th June 2009, has now apparently been deemed ‘confidential’.  That designation is inimical to vital concepts such as transparency and good governance, both of which form important themes of ICATT’s work generally and in this Accountants’ Week in particular.

I appreciate that your time is very limited, so there are only two articles to which I would invite your attention, both available on my website – ‘Finding the Assets‘ (published on 23rd August) and ‘Open letter to the Minister of Finance‘ (published on 5th October and also in that issue of the Trinidad & Tobago Review).  For ease of reference, I have attached copies of these articles.

My specific questions to the Minister of Finance, on which I am here lobbying for ICATT’s support and involvement are:

  1. CL Financial 2008 Audited Accounts – When are these to be published? What is the reason for the delay in doing so?
  2. The second MoU with CL Financial – The first MoU was published on the Ministry of Finance website on 9th April, 9 weeks after it was signed.  Using even that slow timetable, the new MoU is overdue for publication.  Some 18 weeks have now elapsed.  What is the reason for its omission from the Ministry’s website?  The second MoU creates new and onerous commitments for the country and its publication must no longer be delayed.  I emailed the Minister of Finance on 19th September to request clarification on this, but there has been no reply.
  3. Forensic Audits – We have seen various official reports of forensic audits being carried out at CL Financial and some of its subsidiaries.  Have these been completed?
  4. The interest rate – What is the interest rate being charged to CL Financial for this open-ended financial assistance?
  5. Status Reports – We have had no interim reports as to the disbursement of State funds or the disposal of CL Financial Assets.  When does the Ministry of Finance intend to start providing regular reports on the progress of the bailout to the public?
  6. The equity position – How is the equity position of the shareholders being adjusted in this deal?  Has their shareholding been diluted to reflect the position?  Has the State now taken an equity position in the group?  If not, what is the upside for the State in all this?

For the avoidance of doubt, given the recent confusion amongst our learned friends, please note that this is being published to my website.

Afra Raymond

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7 thoughts on “Open letter to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad & Tobago

  1. I have read your article and listened to you carefully on Television. I think what you are doing for the people of T&T and the Caribbean is honorable and necessary. I know it is done with great sacrifice considering the society in which we live.
    However I have questions:
    1) The information that is being requested of you from the minister can’t it be obtained through the courts?
    2) If we ever get an Integrity Commission can this matter be dealt with by the Commission, and if so would you be willing to submit a complaint?

    Finally. You made an awesome observation this morning about the Three (3) major political parties and their deafening silence and inactivity on the CL Financial/ CLICO man-made debacle. If you are correct and I suspect you are, God help us as a nation.

    1. Hello to you, Anil,

      No, ICATT never replied to my open letter. What is worse, we now have details of glaring errors and omissions in CIB’s accounts, governance and regulation, together with the PwC implosion, yet ICATT’s silence continues. See the last two articles in the ‘CL Financial bailout’ series – ‘The House on the Corner parts 1 and 2

      Yesterday ICATT celebrated their 40th Anniversary and I understand that their President appeared on the media. This entire sorry episode contains deeper messages for us, causing me to question the value of Education in this situation of a colossal financial collapse and the silence of all our critical class – we have never in our history had more accountants, attorneys, bankers or economists. I am of the view that this fiasco and the bizarre silence are tangible signs of a deep ‘Civilizational Challenge’.

      To return to your original query, I do not expect any response from ICATT.

      Thank you for joining-in

      Afra

  2. Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad & Tobago (ICATT)’s rules and regulations are clear on matters of an investigative nature and the Institute will not be drawn into the court of public opinion in its regulatory role. At the appropriate time a full statement will be released to the general public via the media on this issue.

    1. Hello Anthony,

      Thank you for your response to my ‘Open Letter to the President of ICATT‘ of 19th October 2009.

      Just for the record, my open letter was inviting you to join me in the public call for a better standard of accountability in the bailout process. That is a call which only Trinidad & Tobago Transparency Institute TTTI has joined me in. There has been scant analysis or commentary on all this, apart from various parties advancing their sectoral interests. To quote your own President’s Message to celebrate ICATT’s 40th Anniversary “…I remain confident that…we will continue to play a developmental role in responding to the needs of our twin island Republic…” I am putting it to you that joining these calls for better accountability in this bailout is the best possible example of such a role at this stage in our country’s development. I have never asked or implied that ICATT should consider breaking its own rules on the proper regulation of its membership. I was seeking your intervention in the inescapable, large-scale financial implications of the bailout and thus far, ICATT has been silent.

      This matter is not going to go away anytime soon and there is unlikely to be a peaceful or amicable solution. I expect that many members of the public, both rich and poor, will be bitter at the outcome and they have a right to expect some guidance or intervention from the informed people in the society, especially those who have organised themselves into professional bodies.

      In my view, that is the progressive role a professional body should play at these times of crisis.

      On the matter of the investigative/regulatory aspects of ICATT’s role, I only recently wrote on that and my comments stand. Just to make an example, even in our imperfect country, when someone is shot dead by the police, we have grown accustomed to the police, at a minimum, announcing that the officers concerned/the episode is to be investigated and we are told the name/rank of the investigating officer. I will continue to equate the destruction of capital on this scale to an horrific mass-murder by the guardians of that capital and it warrants a serious response from the professional body of those guardians, even if to say that we are also concerned and are investigating, having appointed ‘X’ to do so. The silence can give the impression that there are no concerns and that is deeply unsettling.

      I hope you can re-consider your participation in this matter.

      Thanks again.

      Afra

  3. Hello Afra,

    Thank you for the time, energy and passion you have put into keeping this fiasco on the front burner. I am absolutely ashamed of myself. I have no less than 6 policies with CLICO, yet I do nothing to ensure the Government, the directors of CLF/CLICO and the regulatory body (Central Bank) are held accountable for their lack of fiduciary duty to the policy holders and the people of this nation.

    There are too few of us taking this situation seriously. I make no excuse for myself. I am determined to take a closer look from now on. You are right to have the expectations that you do of ICATT. This debacle could have been avoided. Obviously the checks and balances were flawed, or non-existent………yet no one has been held accountable.

    I too hope that Mr. Anthony Pierre would re-consider and participate. We all must re-consider and participate in whatever capacity we exist in, because it concerns us all. There is strength in numbers…..

    Thank you Afra

    Liz

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