Monday, September 28, 2020

Give Parliament the powers to appoint FIA director ÔÇô Gaolatlhe

The Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolatlhe this week lobbied the government to consider changing the laws relating to the appointment of the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA).

While the amendments that were made to the FIA Act this week transfer power of appointment from the Minister of Finance to the President, Gaolatlhe said the right changes would have been making parliament the appointing authority.

Gaolathe observed that a lot of oversight authority bodies are not fully independent as they are supposed to be. He added that understanding this law means people need to bring safeguards against abuse by the ruling elite.

Gaolathe also said that similarly the legislative action is fodder for the black market, as this is breeding a black market for financial transactions. He said even good men and women who live on the right side of the law derive no joy in being constantly monitored. He stated that human nature always bends towards freedom and liberty from undue interference with their lives.

“There is punishment for failure to comply but failing to comply needs to take into consideration the reasons as well, such as whether failure is deliberate, or due to negligence or due to lack of capacity or due to genuine differing interpretation. The law doesn’t care about reasons but it should. You can’t punish people the same when reasons are different,” said Gaolathe.

He gave an example that when someone’s account is unfairly frozen and as a result their business collapses or someone does not get medical procedure because Bill is not paid or they lose elections because they could not purchase the marketing material. He added that effectively freezing someone’s account unfairly means pronouncing he or she is guilty before a court process and that this can be deliberately deployed against political foes.

Minister of Finance and Economic Development kenneth Matambo stated that the Bill concerns itself with issues related to the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism, movement of funds in and outside Botswana, extends the reporting of suspicious financial transactions to accountable institutions, the appointment of compliance officers and their qualifications as well as the appointment and security of tenure of the head of the Financial Intelligence Agency. He added that the Bill also increases the penalties for lack of compliance.

“Clauses 2 and 3 amend the Act by substituting for the word “Director” wherever it appears in the Act, the words “Director General” to create a new nomenclature for the Head of the Financial Intelligence Agency,” said Matambo.

He further spoke of Clauses 12 to 13 amend section 10 of the Act by providing for additional obligations  for specified parties to  conduct enhanced due diligence and to provide for strengthening of customer due diligence measures with respect to beneficial owners and prominent and influential persons, as well as prohibit opening of anonymous accounts.

“The Financial Intelligence Act would not only enable Botswana to deal with the issues of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism but would also substantially enhance the integrity of our financial sector as a whole,” he stated

According to the Bill Clause 18-20 further, amend section 19 of the Act to increase fines from P50 000 to P250 000 to ensure deterrence from non-reporting of suspicious transactions.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.