Oct 22, 2020: With the double whammy of oil prices and Covid-19, this country cannot afford the ongoing corruption in public office.
This was one of the key points made last week at an online panel discussion on ‘The Challenges in Mandating Integrity and Accountability for those Holding Public Office,’ organised by the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI).
Speakers on the panel were: Dr Terrence Farrell, Consultant and former Deputy Central Bank Governor; Professor Gerry Brooks - Chairman, Unit Trust Corporation (Trinidad) and Lara Quentrall-Thomas - Director, Office of the Procurement Regulation and Chairman, Regency Recruitment and Resources Ltd.
Professor Brooks said the country could not tolerate more racket and corruption for both financial and a socioeconomic reasons. He warned: “As we seek to develop a new society, there is an underbelly of discontent. There is a socioeconomic nerve where people are suffering and where we absolutely have to do the right thing and if we have hordes of people who are doing the wrong thing, that will create a host of socioeconomic problems.”
Noting that despite considerable resources being spent on various institutions, including the police, the courts and the Integrity Commission - corruption was continuing, he said: “We have to take a step back and ask why are these institutions not working…What are the road blocks?”
Brooks urged re-engineering of the judicial and legal justice systems and spoke of the need to ensure that the $1 billion allocation to the Ministry of National Security be used more efficiently and effectively across all agencies, including the Police, Forensic Department, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Anti-Money Laundering Unit.
He also highlighted the need for public sector reform, questioning how public officials could be expected to effectively run a Ministry and build competence, capacity and organisational capability if they had no control over recruitment, promotions or transfers? He added: “We have to have the courage to say, in this post-Covid era, do we need a CPO?”
Quentrall-Thomas pointed to the situation where, during the lockdown, the majority of the public service were sent to work from home but “the majority did no work, but still took home full salaries,” while hundreds of thousands of people in the rest of society were suffering. “That is absolutely outrageous,” she said. “It cannot be allowed to stand in a time when the country is truly suffering.” She called for this issue to be the focus of immediate accountability, disciplinary protocols and performance management.
To improve the Public Service, she added, “We have to do a much better job of screening and recruitment,” including the use of lie detector tests, to determine the ethical and customer service orientation of persons before they set foot in our buildings, ministries, or Boards.
Farrell was scathing about the ineffectiveness of the Integrity in Public Life Act, describing it as “a bad piece of legislation.” The declarations of people’s assets and liabilities are “a complete waste of time,” he said. “They do nothing to advance what the Integrity Commission ought to be doing, which is investigate and prosecute for corruption…All it does is harass people,” he said.
He was also critical of the Financial Intelligence Unit of T&T Act, noting that under it, the FIU had no powers of investigation and handed over all Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS) to the police who themselves were not equipped to investigate these types of sophisticated, white collar crimes.
Farrell said, “When we adopt legislation, we tend to go for the weakest model possible, and the results we are getting reflects that - zilch!” He highlighted the example of the Commission of Enquiry into CLICO/CL Financial, which ended with a comprehensive report handed to the Prime Minister, who handed it to the DPP, and “we have heard nothing about it since and we spent millions of dollars as a country on that.”
In their final statements, the OPR director said the most urgent issue was the Procurement legislation and she called for full proclamation of the Act. She noted that the Board of the OPR has been putting in place all the systems, infrastructure, guidelines, handbooks, and a significant amount of training of officers In anticipation of full proclamation.
Brooks said ,“the society was at a very, very critical point …the feeling on the ground is that things are hard…we have to address this..it requires enlightened leadership and the determination to change and It also requires an enlightened citizenry to start making demands to force this change.”
Farrell said, “I keep saying to people, when we see things a particular way, it is because somebody wants it that way…It is in someone’s interest to have it that way….When we put weak legislation in place. When we set up the Integrity Commission and do not give it power to investigate and prosecute, we do it deliberately.…somebody wants it that way.”
With respect to the Police Service, he noted, “I think our Commissioner of Police is now finding out what he really has to manage. I don’t think the COP knew and understood the extent to which the Service he was now in charge of, was so corrupt. He didn’t know. He now knows.”
He concluded, “We need somebody, a leader, has to step forward and say ‘no more’. And it has to be somebody like the Prime Minister. It has to be led from that level and come down the line.”
What could be done to eliminate corruption in all its forms? Farrell summed up the solution as: Prevent. Pursue. Prosecute. Punish!
The CCGI has made the complete recording of this invaluable panel discussion available to the general public on its website: www.caribbeangovernance.org.
The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (“the Institute”) is a membership organisation headquartered in Trinidad & Tobago dedicated to advancing principles of corporate governance across the Caribbean for corporate governance professionals.
For more information please contact CEO Kamla Rampersad de Silva at 221-8707 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Sunday October 25, 2020
July 30, 2020: Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce, Gabriel Faria lamented the lack of collaboration among government, the private sector and trade unions to confront the social and economic challenges brought on by Covid-19.
Speaking at a virtual Governance Week 2020 on Monday, Faria said he hoped for a resumption of tripartite engagement with whichever political party won the general elections, expected this year. The conference was organized by the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI) and comprised participants from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
“In Trinidad, we don’t have that level of maturity at the government level, so it creates a disharmony and I think that is part of the challenge we have as a country. I hope elections are soon and I hope after the elections, the government in power, whichever one that is, will be more receptive to working in true collaboration,” he said while speaking on the challenges facing the private sector during Covid-19.
Executive Director of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), Carmel Hayne said Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley engaged with the private sector and trade unions in a social partnership throughout every stage leading up to the partial closing of the economy.
“We came together, and we discussed whether or not we are going to close our borders. The collective decision was no, Barbados will not close our borders….and therefore, the government adhered to our collective decision in that regard,” she said.
Based on the government’s request, the private sector and trade unions also made submissions on what Barbados’ priorities should be over the next 12-18 months.
General Secretary of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), Michael Annisette lamented that the tripartite approach involving government, the private sector and trade unions was not adopted to deal with challenges facing Trinidad and Tobago.
“What we had was actually a dictation of you do this, you do that without any involvement of the social partners so there would have been an appreciation of the concerns from a perspective of labor and the business community, “ said Annisette, also the President of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union
He added, “So the decisions would have been reflective of the realities that we are facing because both the private sector and trade unions have constituencies which are so critical to the economy and when you exclude those partners in that decision-making process and leaving only for the government to make then, well then that is a prescription for confusion and the fall out that you continue to see in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Faria said many businesses were suffering and several others were sending home workers and shutting their doors.
“The reality is today businesses don’t even have the money to pay their rent, they don’t have the money to pay salaries and businesses are closing, are falling because we don’t have a true collaboration as to how we overcome the current dynamics and it is unfortunate, “ he asserted.
Faies said he has been advocating for five-year old VAT refunds which are critically needed by businesses.
“Those things are impacting aggregate demand, they are impacting confidence, they’re impacting the consumer. All I hope is after elections there will be a fresh engagement and we will move forward positively.”
For further information, please contact:
Kamla Rampersad de Silva,
Chief Executive Officer,
The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute
Phone: +1 868 221 8707
June 6th 2020: Former Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine expects energy companies operating in T&T to report historic levels of losses for 2020 and 2021 but sees the situation normalising in 2023.
Ramnarine, now an Energy Consultant, was the feature speaker last Thursday (June 4th) at a weekly Corporate Governance Zoom seminar hosted by the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI) addressing governance challenges in the energy sector. The audience included leaders in the banking, energy, manufacturing and services sectors.
Noting that the International Monetary Fund has forecast negative growth of 4.5% for T&T in 2020, Ramnarine said: “That seems conservative.” He also sees 2021 being the same as or worse than 2020 as local energy companies carry forward losses as deferred tax assets. This will have consequences for tax revenue in 2021. He also added that “Government may not collect any Supplemental Petroleum Tax from March 2020 into 2021” as oil prices should generally remain under US$50 per barrel and Supplemental Petroleum Tax is only payable if prices are above US$50 per barrel.
In addition, with T&T’s methanol and ammonia plants now among the highest cost producers in the world, they were among the first to shut down and, as prices go back up, they will be the last to start back, Ramnarine predicted. He also noted that the cost to produce a tonne of methanol in Trinidad and Tobago was around US$175 per tonne which made most methanol production at Point Lisas uneconomic in the current price environment. He added that currently 35 per cent of the plants at Point Lisas were either closed or idled.
He identified the challenges that government will have to eventually confront as including the future role of the National Gas Company, whose customers are disappearing one by one; the fiscal regime for exploration and production operators; and addressing the relationship between the NGC, T&TEC and TGU.
Speaking just one day prior to World Environment Day, Ramnarine cautioned that one critical issue the country must address at some point was energy efficiency and energy conservation. He noted that 15% of residences in T&T accounted for the majority of residential demand for electricity.
Despite the gloomy outlook he sees in the short to medium term, Ramnarine said: “I am an eternal optimist when it comes to Trinidad and Tobago.” We will survive this, he said. We’ve done it before in the 1980s after which we went on to 15 consecutive years of economic growth from 1993 to 2008, he noted.
Ramnarine sees enormous opportunities for Trinidad and Tobago in Suriname and Guyana, which do not have a deep water harbours and are in the early stages of developing their Deepwater hydrocarbon sectors. “Our greatest asset is the Gulf of Paria..., which is like a lake in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” he said. Adding that another significant asset was the ISCOTT dock which is underutilized, Ramnarine said maritime services could become a big job creator and revenue generator for the country but the strategic vision and planning were lacking.
The theme of Thursday’s Zoom seminar was: “Managing in the Perfect Storm - Governance Challenges in the Energy Sector.” Ramnarine said that to improve governance on State Boards, how those Boards were appointed and constituted had to change. He suggested that the Statoil (now Equinor) and Saudi Aramco models could be looked at in this regard. These allowed for the appointment of directors from various interest groups and for the appointment of foreign directors.
CCGI has been hosting weekly online seminars and discussions since the start of stay at home restrictions in March. Topics have ranged from “Governance Response to Covid-19,” “Embracing Digital While Mitigating the Risks,” “Partnering with Labour: Engaging Your Teams in the Battle Against the Pandemic,” and “Dealing with Difficult Boards.”
Non-profit organisations will be particularly interested in this week’s session, which will be held on Friday (June 12th). The topic is: “Avoid Non Compliance! Fulfil Legal Obligations Created by the Non Profit Organisations Act.” According to CCGI CEO Kamla Rampersad De Silva, the new Act was passed in June 2019, and requires new filing obligations which come into effect at the end of this month. For more information visit the CCGI’s website at: www.caribbeangovernance.org.
Please contact Kamla Rampersad de Silva, CEO-CCGI
On Wednesday 30th January 2019, the CCGI held its 2nd annual event for family owned businesses.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a platinum sponsor, facilitated the engaging and informative seminar which provided a variety of insights on Succession Planning. The seminar also dealt with topics linked to Succession Planning including Estate Planning & Tax Structuring for Family Owned Businesses & Valuation.
In their presentation, Zia Paton, Partner, Consulting & Shermarke Howard, Director, Consulting stated that “family businesses need to proactively plan for sustainable growth and succession”.
Participants were encouraged to “start by documenting a strategic plan that addresses both core business strategies and family ownership issues, choose an appropriate succession model that balances the need for control while understanding the available talent pool (family/non-family) and plan early, communicate frequently, support ongoing development and assess performance objectively."
Lisa Awai, Partner, Advisory Services and Kester Popplewell, Director, Advisory Services made their contributions on the topic of Valuation, noting that ‘there are many stages throughout the life cycle of a business where the valuation of your equity interest will play a pivotal role in planning how you move forward. It’s important to remember that price does not necessarily equate value, that the value of an equity interest is not necessarily valued on a pro-rata basis.....some blocks of shares are worth more than others dependent on the ability to influence and control operations and that the value of your business does not necessarily equate to the value of your equity interest in the business."
Angelique Bart, Partner, Tax & Legal Services urged the business owners and Managing Directors in attendance to “deal with succession planning and include your management and other key personnel in the process Deal with estate planning separately. Finally, start the process early and get help to move forward."
The session concluded with a lively discussion where business owners shared real life stories on the topic of succession planning. Panellists included Dale Parson, CEO Kaleidoscope Group, Brian Jahra, Executive Chairman, CinemaOne Limited and Joel Persico, Commercial Director, Unicomer (Trinidad) Limited.
CCGI Director, Fe Lopez – Collymore expressed her gratitude to additional sponsors which included Republic Bank, Guardian Group, Goddard Enterprises Limited and Oscar Francois Limited.
The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (“the Institute”) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Ronnie Bissessar as the Chairman of its Board of Directors.
Read more on this article by clicking this link: Media Release CCGI Appoints New Chair
Fazeer Mohammed of TV6 interviews the Chairman of the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI), Dr Axel Kravatzky, and Jean Pousson, Faculty Member of CCGI, on the Strategy & Risk Module of the Certificate in Corporate Governance.
The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI) is calling on Boards of Directors to assess and report on their own performance in the Corporate Annual report.
The CCGI, noting that the content and quality of the annual report is one of most important indicators of “effective corporate governance in both the public and private sectors”, has outlined what it considers to be the main elements for inclusion in the publication. And chief among them, CCGI says, should be evidence that the organization has a strong and effective board.
The organisation is therefore insisting that “All boards should undertake a rigorous, transparent and formal annual evaluation of its own performance and that of its committees and of the individual directors” for publication in the annual report.
CCGI says the annual report should also provide evidence that board members are independently minded and loyal, with the inclusion of an annual disclosure of the selection and appointment process as well as a listing of each independent non-executive director. CCGI reminded that the selection process for directors should be “rigorous and formal and designed to give the Board a balance of independence and diversity of skills, knowledge, experience, perspectives and gender among Directors so that the Board works effectively.”
The Institute recommends that improved disclosure by organisations begin with the publication of a clear outline of the board’s roles and responsibilities, with the Board stating that “it is explicitly taking into account the legitimate interests and expectations of all stakeholders.
There should also be in the Annual Report evidence that there is active co-operation between corporations and stakeholders in creating wealth, employment, and the sustainability of a financially sound enterprise.”
CCGI is further calling on all boards to publish accurate, timely and balanced disclosure of all material matters concerning their company, stating their responsibility towards the integrity of the financial reports.
This, according to the Institute, includes a statement from Directors that the reports comply with applicable financial reporting standards and present a true and fair view of the financial affairs of the company.”
Barbadians can benefit from the CCGI in the upcoming board certification workshop November 11 and 12 at the Hilton Hotel.
CCGI programmes combine deep local knowledge with global benchmark standards. CPD credits are awarded to the CCGI programmes by the Institute of Chartered Secretaries (ICSA), and Institute of Chartered Auditors of Barbados (ICAB).
Further information, membership and event registration and payments go to www.caribbeangovernance.org
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Bridgetown - Caribbean corporate executives are being urged to update their knowledge of financial risks, solvency, bankruptcy laws and regulations.
This advice is coming from the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI).
In a presentation outlining what every director needs to understand about their company making a profit and being able to meet its financial obligations, the CCGI noted that there have been many changes within solvency and bankruptcy laws and regulations, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago. While noting the importance of being aware of the laws within the home country, CCGI says it is also prudent to know the bankruptcy laws and regulations in countries where customers and suppliers are located.
“It is no longer sufficient for a director to simply ask – ‘what’s the bottom line – are we making a profit or not,’ without exception, every director needs to understand the nature of financial risks for the company,” said Dr Axel Kravatzky, Chairman of CCGI.
Speaking directly to the role of company directors, Dr Kravatzky warned: “Do not abdicate your fiduciary duty as a director and rely blindly on the other board members to carry out financial assessments.”
Insisting that “Every Director needs to understand financial statements”, executives were encouraged to make regular use of financial ratios and know how to make basic analyses and interpretations.
According to Dr Kravatzky, “Board Directors need to understand the ratios of their own organizations and those of their creditors.”
With respect to financial risks, he said, “The board as a whole needs to determine the areas of risk and financial management that are significant and establish policies. In addition, risk appetite and tolerance thresholds should be determined by the board” and recognition must be given to the fact that “different stakeholders will have different perspectives on risk”.
As such, CCGI warned companies against looking at issues from only one dimension and suggested an examination of risks from the perspective of solvency risk, liquidity risk and profitability risk.
Directors were also encouraged to consider the impact of capital leverage and be aware of how much the risks of potential insolvency vary according to the proportion of capital raised in debt or equity.
The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute calls for adoption of Corporate Governance in Budget
Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago) The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI) is calling on the Minister of Finance, Mr Colm Imbert to make it mandatory for all State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to apply the principles of the Trinidad & Tobago Corporate Governance Code (TTCGC) and to report to the public how they have done this.
In November 2013 the CCGI together with its two partners, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the T&T Stock Exchange, published the Trinidad and Tobago Corporate Governance Code (TTCGC). The TTCGC applies to all corporate bodies with public accountability. Adopting the code as the reference standard for corporate governance would be consistent with the recommendation by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its 2015 Edition of the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises.
The CCGI therefore urges the new Minister of Finance, Corporate Sole, to add one line to the Budget and mandate that all State-Owned Enterprises to adopt the TTCGC as its reference standard and to ensure that all persons appointed to public boards have at least a basic certified foundation in corporate governance. In the case of Jamaica, similar plans are currently under active development. Says Dennis Brown, CCGI director based in Jamaica: “if the current plans for the public bodies are implemented, it could well be that in Jamaica the public sector will lead the private sector in terms of good corporate governance.”
Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago) The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI), on behalf of its membership, congratulates Dr., The Honourable Keith Rowley on his appointment as the new Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago. The CCGI also extend best wishes to the Attorney General, Mr. Faris Al-Rawi, the Minister of Finance, Mr Colm Imbert and the other members Members of the Cabinet recently sworn in.
The Institute welcomes the Government's commitment to introduce formal measures to assure good governance and looks forward to supporting this effort in the corporate governance domain. Says Dr Axel Kravatzky, Chairman of the CCGI: “We note and applaud the new Prime Minister’s declaration that integrity and morality are of the utmost importance for his incoming Government and that Dr Rowley commits his Government to ‘good, honest, equitable, and transparent governance’ ”.
As stated in the PNM’s election manifesto, this Government has already identified some of the necessary policies and programmes to rebuild the country and its economy, and to restore confidence, equity and social justice. There are two key pledges made on governance by the new Prime Minister, prior to his election, that the regional Institute highlights. The first is that the approach to governance will be data based, scientific, holistic and evidence driven, paying due attention at all times for the need to respect the rights and freedoms of all citizens. The second is the commitment to restore integrity and morality in public affairs by enforcing a Code of Ethical Conduct for Members of Parliament, with sanctions and penalties for non-compliance following the guidelines published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
The CCGI strongly supports the pledge to formally commit to a set of values and standards of behaviour together with an explicit mechanism for enforcement, as such an approach is also recommended in the sphere of corporate governance.
The November 2013 the CCGI together with its two partners, namely, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the T&T Stock Exchange published the Trinidad and Tobago Corporate Governance Code (TTCGC). The TTCGC applies to all corporate bodies with public accountability. The CCGI is, like the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, a regional, politically neutral, independent, and professional body for all corporate governance stakeholders to come together, develop, and agree on standards that are appropriate for the region and its individual countries.
The CCGI urges the new Minister of Finance, Corporate Sole, to mandate that all State-Owned Enterprises to adopt the TTCGC as its reference standard and to ensure that all persons appointed to public boards have at least a basic certified foundation in corporate governance. In the case of Jamaica, similar plans are currently under active development. Says Dennis Brown, CCGI director based in Jamaica: “if the current plans for the public bodies are implemented, it could well be that the public sector will lead the private sector in terms of good corporate governance.”
The CCGI looks forward to partnering with the Government, as it has done with the previous Administration, and supporting its effort to efficiently produce the best possible outcomes for its citizens through good corporate governance.
About the CCGI:
The CCGI is a regional, independent, non-profit, professional membership organization registered with the Accreditation Council of T&T. CCGI is the award body that provides the Certificate and Diploma in Corporate Governance and the Chartered Director qualification throughout the Caribbean. CCGI welcomes membership applications and participation in its courses and events throughout the region. www.caribbeangovernance.org
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