It has taken Parliament’s Appointment Committee 15 months to identify an accountant for the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – a key node in the fight against money laundering.
According to the Fourth Report of the Committee on Appointments, dated April 13, 2017, and circulated in the National Assembly on Thursday, the search for an accountant commenced on December 23, 2015 and ended on March 22, 2017. The committee has now submitted to the National Assembly, the name of Surendra Lall Boodhoo for the position of accountant in the FIU.
In his report, Chairman of the Committee on Appointments, Dr George Norton detailed the process followed over the 15 months.
The search for an accountant was necessitated by the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Act of 2015 which mandated that the FIU should include an accountant appointed by the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments from a list derived from responses to a public announcement of the vacancy.
While the first meeting on this position was held on December 23, 2015, it was not until the fourth meeting held on March 9th, 2016 that the committee upon request was given the criteria, job description and terms of reference for the position.
Two members of the committee were then assigned to review the advertisement for the position. The committee approved the advertisement and it was placed in the four national newspapers on March 22, 23 and 24, 2016 with a deadline for submission of applications of March 30, 2016. The advertisement was also placed on Parliament Office’s website.
At the sixth meeting held on April 13, 2016, the report said that the committee acknowledged the applications and spreadsheet with a summary of the 29 candidates and their applications. At this meeting, a subcommittee comprising three members was entrusted with preparing an evaluation form for the shortlisting of the applicants using the terms of reference for the post. The subcommittee was given two weeks to prepare the proposed evaluation forms.
The report said that at the seventh meeting of the committee on April 27, 2016, the proposed evaluation form submitted by the subcommittee was analysed and amended. The committee undertook to enquire from the applicants via email if they considered themselves to be politically exposed persons as defined in the AML/CFT Act and the Financial Action Task Force regulations.
According to the report, the applicants’ responses to the committee’s request was considered at its 8th meeting held on May 13, 2016. The committee noted however that not all applicants had responded and that further efforts would be made by the clerk of the committee to contact the applicants who had not responded.
At the 12th meeting of the committee held on June 20, 2016, responses from the applicants in relation to the question about politically exposed persons were acknowledged. Thereafter, 10 applicants were shortlisted to appear before the committee for interviews.
At the 13th meeting of the committee on June 27th beginning at 9.30 am, the committee undertook a preliminary interview of nine persons since one person was absent. Following the interviews, the committee agreed on the successful candidate for the position and this was communicated to the person.
The committee at its 14th meeting on July 13, 2016 was told that the top ranked candidate had declined the offer of appointment to the position. No information was provided in the report as to why the top-ranked candidate had declined the offer.
It would be another six months before there was something tangible to report. At the 17th meeting of the committee held on January 25, 2017 the committee shortlisted two applicants for the post. The report said that the clerk was instructed to verify with the applicants whether they were still interested in the position and to inform them of the salary offered. It was also agreed that should one of the two applicants agree to be appointed to the post due diligence should be carried out on that person. If both applicants indicated interest the committee would meet and make a decision on the more suitable candidate.
At the 18th meeting held on February 15, 2017, the committee was advised that only Boodhoo was still interested in the position. It was agreed at that meeting that the Commissioner of Police would conduct due diligence and the candidate’s place of employ would be written to for information.
At the 19th meeting of the committee on March 22, 2017, members reviewed and accepted the results of the due diligence. The committee has now submitted Boodhoo’s name to the National Assembly for approval.
The other members of the committee are Amna Ally, David Patterson, Catherine Hughes, Annette Ferguson, Gail Teixeira, Juan Edghill, Ganga Persaud and Bhagmattie Veerasammy.