It’s now over one year since the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OCI) had undertaken the processing of an insurance licence application for Caricom General Insurance Company, formerly the Guyana Fire Life and General Insurance Company (GuyFlag), and the office is yet to announce its decision.
Caricom Insurance in 2005 had taken the OCI to court after it had denied an earlier application for an insurance licence following allegations that the insurer was involved in a $400M insurance scam.
After the insurer had dropped the case against OCI the insurance authority accepted another application from the entity. A case on the insurance scam is still pending and the next court hearing is in March.
Caricom Insurance remained the manager of the 1.9 million euros Linden Economic Advancement Fund (LEAF), a government of Guyana and European Union programme, that gives business loans to residents of Region 10. LEAF is scheduled to end in June.
The EU had stopped releasing monies to the fund after the fraud allegations in 2005 but resumed early last year, following a special audit in 2006 by the EU and a report that was made public in May 2007. The fund also had to meet some requirements before the monies were released.
Several phone calls to the OCI over the last two weeks to glean information on the status of the application proved futile. This newspaper was told that the Commissioner had received the request for an update on the licence application for the insurer and was told by a staffer that Insurance Commissioner Maria van Beek would respond. During the last phone call this newspaper made, the Commis-sioner was in office, but in a meeting.
This newspaper is still awaiting an update from the OCI but it is not clear if a press release will be forthcoming.
In September last year, Assistant Commissioner Tracy Gibson had told this newspaper that a decision would likely be made on the application before the end of 2008…”we are working on it”.
Gibson remarked that the staff at the OCI was small, but the office would have been able to conclude the consideration of the application for Caricom Insurance last year. The current licence application was submitted around October 2007. During that interview the assistant commissioner noted that that the website’s information had to be updated and had promised then that this would be done shortly. “We are working on that,” Gibson had said, speaking of the OCI website updating.
In January 2008, van Beek had told this newspaper that a decision was expected since December 2007, but noted that there was a delay in the final report of the auditors that visited Caricom Insurance.
Van Beek had said at the time that the OCI had concluded an inspection and special audit of Caricom Insurance but the auditors’ final report was expected by January month-end of 2008.
The findings of that report were expected to guide the decision on the licence application for Caricom Insurance.