JIS News

Debate on a Bill to amend the Financial Services Commission (FSC) Act, to validate the actions of the agency, began in the Senate on July 21, but was suspended to accommodate the Opposition’s request to view a schedule of the actions of the FSC that were being called upon to be validated by the government.
The amendment being made to the FSC Act also seeks to indemnify the agency, its officers and staff and other persons acting in the purported exercise of supervisory authority over the insurance sector.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator A. J. Nicholson, who piloted the Bill, explained that the Act was passed in 2001, but was to take effect on a date to be appointed by the Minister by order published in the gazette.
“The appointed date that was published in the gazette made provision for the Act to come into force on August 2, 2001,” Senator Nicholson noted.
However, in August of the same year, the Justice Minister said, a Joint Select Committee of Parliament was still deliberating on the Bill that was expected to repeal and replace the Insurance Act of 1971. “In light of this, the appointed day notice excluded the sections of the FSC Act that related to insurance, namely sections 2A and 21,” he said.
Section 2A provides that the financial services offered by the FSC include insurance, while Section 21 of the Act refers to the applicable penalties for insurance offences that are described in the fourth schedule to that Act, in accordance with the provisions of the Insurance Act.
“The appointed day notice did not have those two sections recited in the notice. The intention was to bring into force, the new Insurance Act and the provisions of the FSC Act at the same time. It wasn’t done,” the Minister told the Senate.
Further explaining the reasons to validate the Bill, he said the first clause was a citation clause that sets out the title and year.
As for the second clause, Senator Nicholson, said it “seeks to validate and confirm all acts done in good faith by the FSC, its officers, and staff in the purported exercise of the powers of the FSC under the Act and also of the Insurance Act, and secondly, all other persons, who had an official duty or were employed in the administration of the FSC Act, in relation to the insurance industry.”
Raising concerns with the move to approve the Bill, Opposition Senator Dorothy Lightbourne suggested that a Joint Committee of Parliament that reviewed legislation be implemented, so as to avoid instances of an Act not being enforced.
On the matter of the FSC Bill before the Senate, she said: “we don’t know what we are validating. One of the things we ought to have known, in validating these sections, is [whether] it will create criminal offences retroactively. That’s very important and there is a great concern outside in the legal profession that we will be creating criminal offences retroactively which will carry criminal sanctions,” Senator Lightbourne remarked.
She proposed the suspension of the Bill, and asked the government to “bring us a list of what offences are likely to be validated, so that we ensure that we have protected our citizens and that they do not face criminal sanctions and criminal offences.”
Responding to Senator Lightbourne’s recommendation, Senator Nicholson, who is also Leader of Government Business reiterated that the Bill was “not seeking to criminalise action done over the period. What we are doing is validating the actions taken by staff and officers and other persons, who had an official duty in the FSC. What we are doing is indemnifying them from liability for actions done in good faith.”
Citing an example of individuals, who might have committed crimes, Senator Nicholson said such persons would be investigated in the same manner that normal procedures would dictate.
Making his contribution to the debate, Senator Trevor Munroe expressed support for the Bill and urged that “the government give careful consideration to the request that the Law Reform Committee be made into a commission of the Parliament and therefore facilitate regular oversight of its activity by the Parliament, to ensure that as far as is possible, that this kind of thing does not recur.”
In regard to the FSC, he said the agency was “a welcome and necessary addition to the regulatory framework in our financial services sector.”
He proposed that against this background, “as an agency of the state, the Commission, like others, should submit itself to certain performance standards, which are made public to its clients and to the country as a whole.”