Yet another worrying aspect of the CL Financial (CLF) bailout fiasco is the role of the Integrity Commission (IC) in these turbid dealings. I am referring to the apparent failure or refusal of The Commission to carry out its duties in relation to CLF as required by the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).
I first raised the prospect that CLF might well be under the IC’s oversight on 28th May 2009, in an article entitled – Judgment Time – Moral Hazard part 3. I have been pursuing that concern steadily since September 2012 and yet the position of the IC is no clearer. On 9th September 2015, I again put the question – Is the integrity Commission being willfully blind towards CL Financial? Indeed, in my March 28th 2018 interview with the Trinidad Express, I stated, in relation to the governance aspects unearthed by my campaign –
“…What is more, our Integrity Commission also seems to have lost its way in failing to recognise that CL Financial is a company under State control. As a result, the Commission has sought no Directors’ declarations from the largest of the State controlled companies. I tell you…”
Given that these are very serious allegations to level against one of our nation’s Public Institutions, I will give the supporting details.
The Integrity Commission is one of our country’s Important Independent Institutions, intended to tackle corrupt behaviour amongst public officials. Given the well-known and seemingly-unstoppable rise in grand corruption, the IC has attracted heavy criticism from various quarters.
The IPLA applies to ‘persons in Public Life’ as defined in the IPLA as –
“…(9) 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 of 12th June 2009 gave the State the power to appoint four of the seven Directors of the CLF Board of Directors, which has been fully engaged. That Agreement therefore gave the State control over CL Financial Ltd.
On 6th October 2013, the IC published its Statement as a paid advertisement in the Sunday Express, which specified, at its fourth item, that –
“…State Enterprises are those companies which according to the legal sources that determine control (such as…any relevant and legal shareholders agreements) are controlled by the State…”
That statement was issued in response to public concerns over the position after the Appeal Court ruling in the TSTT matter, in relation to the applicability of the IPLA to that company, but its meaning is plain.
The issue is as pregnant as it is painful.
If the IC accepts that CLF was indeed under State control since the Shareholders’ Agreement of 12th June 2009, it is obliged to requisition declarations from Directors of that parent company and all its subsidiaries. That would include the distressed companies and the other ones in the ownership or control of CLF. Companies such as Republic Bank and Angostura. I have established, by direct research, that the IC has not been requiring those declarations of income, assets and liabilities from the CLF Directors.
If the IC rejects the Shareholders’ Agreement as being invalid, one is left to wonder –
On what basis were those massive sums of Public Money paid out in the CL Financial bailout?
Indeed, with a new Chairman in the person of eminent retired Justice, Mr Melville Baird, together with a new Registrar, Ms Jasmine Pascal, one has to wonder if the new leadership at the Commission can do better than their predecessors in resolving this failure of our Integrity Framework.
The largest State-controlled company has not been under proper oversight of the IC, for nine years now, just imagine that.