The National Assembly on Thursday passed the Deeds and Commercial Registries Amendment Bill with a view to modernising the operations of the agency and while the opposition expressed reservations about certain provisions, support for the bill was not withheld.
The bill had been tabled on July 12, 2012 and was sent to a Special Select Committee on August 2, 2012.
Both the APNU and AFC gave their support to the legislation but had reservations about the powers of the government with regard to the execution of the work of the refashioned Deeds Registry.
Through the passage of the Act, the government is moving to separate the Deeds Registry from the Commercial Registry with a view to providing faster service to the public and businesses.
The explanatory memorandum of the bill acknowledges that the present organisation of the Deeds Registry is inadequate to serve the public, resulting in the need for the creation of two registries.
According to the bill, the Deeds Registry will be responsible for the functions relating to Deeds. It said too that the Registrar of Deeds and the Deputy Registrar of Deeds would be appointed under the proposed law by the Judicial Service Commission.
The Commercial Registry would perform all matters that fall broadly outside of the Deeds Registry, including all matters relating to companies, business names, patents, the sale of goods, and trademarks. The functions of the Registrar of the Commercial Registry would be those assigned under the Companies Act, the Business Names (Registration) Act, the Patent and Designs Act, the Bills of Sale Act, the Trade Marks Act and the Trade Unions Act.
However, unlike with the appointment of the Deeds Registrar, the bill proposes to have the Commercial Registrar, the Deputy, and two Assistant Registrars appointed by the Legal Affairs Minister, while a governing board envisaged by the legislation would appoint public notaries, clerks and other officers or employees necessary to carry out the functions of the Commercial Registry.
Speaking on the passage of the bill, Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh said that government has worked very hard to have a strong legislative framework in place for the judiciary. He spoke of the wide range of legislation that has been passed over the years. “We hope that with a modern Deeds Registry, getting financial reports, ascertaining directorships and other related matters will be administered in a much more efficient manner. The Deeds and Commercial Registry Bill represents another instalment in our comprehensive and wide ranging efforts at modernising the landscape for business in Guyana,” he said.
The bill says a governing board would be established for the authority to be established under the bill and its functions would include those relating to the Deeds Registry previously carried out by the Public Service Ministry. This board is to consist of a chairman that the minister appoints; the Registrar of Deeds, the Registrar of the Commercial Registry; a nominee of the Finance Ministry; a nominee of the Housing and Water Ministry; a nominee of the Guyana Bar Association; a nominee of the Guyana Association of Legal Professionals; and a nominee of the private sector.
Speaking on the bill, AFC Leader and Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan said that because of the state of affairs present at the Deeds Registry, lawyers have to “do things” in order to transact business smoothly and speedily there. He said that this is why he does not currently have a practice in this area.
According to the bill, before the appointed day, the government and the Deeds Registry, with the approval of the Public Service Commission, shall notify the officers and employees of the Deeds Registry that the authority wishes to retain them.
It adds that the officers and employees that are retained, subject to the approval of the minister, shall be engaged on terms no less favourable than those applicable to them immediately before the appointed day.
In addition, the bill notes that the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority will be the successor to the government with regard to the officers’ and employees’ leave and superannuation rights and benefits.
It adds that their employment “shall be deemed to have been uninterrupted and the period of service of each such officer or employee with the Deeds Registry, and every other period of service of that employee that is recognised as continuous employment with the government, shall be deemed to have been a period of service with the authority.”
It says further that every officer and employee not retained under this section shall be referred to the Public Service Commission for its appropriate action.
APNU Member of Parliament Basil Williams was concerned that the government would want to take its old employment practices with regard to the public service into the new Deeds Registry.