The select committee of Parliament considering the anti-money laundering bill took small steps towards completing their work when they met on Tuesday and discussed the AML/CFT Authority which is to oversee the work of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
The committee is currently devoting a great part of every meeting towards the scrutiny of A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU’s) proposed amendments, and it seems that progress has been made. As iterated by President Donald Ramotar, Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill, government has expressed willingness to allow amounts more than ten million dollars to be seized at entry and exit points, as well as anywhere in the country’s jurisdiction.
Nandlall told Stabroek News earlier this week that the concession was made because government wants the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amend-ment) Bill passed as soon as possible. After failing to meet several deadlines last year and at least two this year, Guyana is working towards passing the legislation before a Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) plenary in May.
Despite the fast approaching deadline though, it is not yet clear when next the committee will meet. The consideration of the budget estimates commences next Monday and all other parliamentary matters are usually postponed in favour of these sessions which run every day, except weekends, until the process is finished.
Stabroek News understands that committee members will be informed of the next committee meeting next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, during a press conference on Thursday, Ramotar made it clear that government’s decision to concede the amendment regarding monetary seizures is not an indication of its agreement with the proposed legislation.
Where the contention lies
The committee is currently looking at APNU’s proposal to have FIU operations overseen by an independent, non-political authority. Yesterday, Harmon told Stabroek News that the proposed amendment was the centre of discussions when the committee met on Tuesday.
He said that government and opposition committee representatives engaged each other with the intention of “fleshing out” the composition of the authority, its powers, and which entity it must report to. APNU financial point person, Carl Greenidge, yesterday added that Tuesday’s discussions saw efforts taken to eliminate vague and potentially misleading language from the proposed amendments.
He said that government wants to ensure that CFATF will not misunderstand what the amendments are calling for.
While the wording and rewording of the amendments go on relatively unabated, the composition and powers of the authority remain an issue. Greenidge says that government does not want the authority to be overseen by a civil society body, as will be the case if APNU has its way.
Furthermore, Harmon said that government insists on having the authority staffed by officers it controls to some extent. These officers include the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police, the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit. Harmon said APNU cannot agree to those proposals since doing so will lend to an unacceptable authority.
He said that the authority must be staffed with independent professionals if it is to independently dispense its responsibilities. He also said that the APNU is willing to allow government’s picks to sit in on the meeting of the authority, but only on the condition that they have no voting powers.