Gov’t moves to beat new Insolvency Bill deadline

Gov’t moves to beat new Insolvency Bill deadline

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter

Thursday, September 11, 2014

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THE report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill will be tabled in the Senate today, despite the committee's failure to agree on a supervisor of insolvency under the new Act.

The Jamaica Observer understands that there have been differences among members of the committee, stakeholders and the overseas consultant, Patrick Shea, as to whether the Financial Services Commission (FSC) or the Office of the Trustee in Bankruptcy (OTB) should become the supervisor.

There are also stakeholders who believe that other agencies, including the Fair Trading Commission could be considered, and still others who believe that a brand new agency should be established to perform the job.

The FSC has been the forerunner to be named as supervisor since the Bill was drafted. However, Shea, a partner in one of Canada's largest law firms, Gowlings, and adviser to the committee thinks that the OTB should be the supervisor.

Sources told the Observer that the idea of a completely new office of a supervisor in insolvency seemed the most likely thing to break the ice. However, the cost of setting up a new office during the current economic austerity could influence the committee against this decision.

According to Shea, in Canada, the Government Trustee in Bankruptcy was eliminated and that office became the insolvency supervisor. He suggested that this could also be considered a "clean transition" and far more efficient than trying to find funds to deal with an entirely separate office.

Chairman of the committee, Anthony Hylton, had suggested that when fundamental reform is necessary in Jamaica, it is difficult to put new legislation into an existing situation and change the culture and practices surrounding the old legislation.

FSC consultant Keith Cooper, meanwhile, felt that there would have to be drastic reforms to the structure and modus operandi of the OTB for it to assume the role of supervisor.

The committee broke off from its usual deliberations on Wednesday at Gordon House, which were scheduled as its final meeting before approving its report to Parliament, to hold a private caucus away from the glare of the press at Gordon House. However, it still failed to agree on the issue of the supervisor.

But the committee agreed that it would table a report, excluding the supervisor issue, in the Senate this morning. The report is being tabled in the Senate instead of the House of Representatives, where chairman Hylton sits, because in a desperate bid to meet an International Monetary Fund (IMF) benchmark deadline, it was laid in the Senate by Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding, in late December.

However, the Observer understands that a new Bill with more than 100 amendments strung together over more than eight months of discussion will be tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The Bill has already missed the IMF's deadline to be debated by the end of April, and would miss the latest deadline, of the end of September, unless it is passed by the end of the month.

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