PPP/C recklessly ignored 12 COTED warnings that environmental tax violated treaty

Mr Anil Nandlall, former Attorney General, berates the government for not settling its environmental tax case with SM Jaleel and its subsidiary Guyana Beverage Inc, a decision on which was handed down by the CCJ on May 9. Had Mr Nandlall disclosed that the root of the problem was the PPP’s failure to withdraw the 1997 tax which became unlawful on the coming into force of the Revised Treaty of Chagauramas in 2001, his letter would have had more credibility. In fact, the PPP recklessly ignored twelve warnings from the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of Caricom between May 22, 2001 and March 30, 2012, that the tax was a violation of the Revised Treaty of Chagauramas (RTC). Mr Nandlall places the blame on APNU and the AFC for their failure to support an amendment in 2013 but does not state why the PPP/C did not use its majority prior to 2011 to amend the legislation, or why it did not simply stop collecting the tax after it lost its parliamentary majority, as the CCJ pointed out.

It is also important to recall that Mr Nandlall himself argued the similar case brought by RUDISA against the government but failed to raise important points of law, one of which the CCJ indicated would have been an attractive proposition. The CCJ ruled in its entirety against Guyana in RUDISA which was awarded judgment for the full sum of US$6,047,244 they claimed. In the SM Jaleel case, the claim against Guyana was for $2,277 million for the period January 2006 to August 7, 2015. The CCJ ruled, however, that only $1,178 million collected between May 7, 2011 and August 7, 2015 must be refunded. That works out at approximately 52% and after tax adjustment to approximately $700 million.

I believe that Mr Basil Williams was right in taking the case to the CCJ and that Guyana has reason to consider that the ruling was particularly harsh against it. In fact, had the CCJ not rejected two applications by Guyana for reasons that are highly debatable, Guyana would have fared much better. The applications were to produce expert evidence from Dr Maurice Odle and me, and the second a request for documents. Continue reading PPP/C recklessly ignored 12 COTED warnings that environmental tax violated treaty

Guyana must comply with CCJ’s ruling on the “environmental” tax

On May 8, the Caribbean Court of Justice handed down a decision in a case against Guyana brought by a Surinamese manufacturing company Rudisa Beverages & Juices N.V. and its Guyana subsidiary Caribbean International Distributors Inc. In essence the two companies were claiming a refund of what is called under the Guyana’s Customs Act an environmental tax of $10 on the importation of non-returnable beverage containers. The two companies asked the regional court which is the protector of the Revised Treaty of Chagauramas (RTC) among other things, to order Guyana to refund to them the sum of US$6,047,244.47 paid by them to the GRA up to 24th October 2013 and any further amounts paid since that date.

After submissions and arguments which began in June last year, the Court:

A) Declared that the collection of the environmental tax in relation to goods of CARICOM origin is incompatible with the RTC; and

B) Ordered Guyana to:

i) Immediately cease the collection of environmental tax on imported non-returnable beverage containers;

ii) Pay to CIDI the sum of US$6,047,244.47 together with such further sums paid by them from 25th October 2013 to the date of this judgement;

iii) Pay interest on the sums payable by this judgement at the rate of 4% per annum from the date of the judgement; and

iv) Pay the costs of these proceedings to be taxed if not agreed.
Continue reading Guyana must comply with CCJ’s ruling on the “environmental” tax

The Jagdeo Initiative – what is that?

As President Jagdeo prepares to demit office in another few weeks there is a single issue with which his name will always be associated in CARICOM. And that is the common regional agricultural repositioning strategy which has been given the name Jagdeo Initiative. That it will remain only an initiative without any success is evident by Jagdeo’s failure to carry through his initiative even in his own country. Quite what is the Jagdeo Initiative and how did it arise?

In 2002 President Jagdeo had said to the leaders of CARICOM that agriculture had been buckling under pressures of trade reform, natural disasters and policy deficiencies; that the region had a poor implementation track record with the result that agriculture was not providing the region with food security nor covering the growing food import bill. He told his colleagues “… at this stage, we need a policy and strategy which will allow us to decide on what sort of institutions and mechanisms are needed to reposition agriculture.”

The region’s leaders were taken in by the self-confidence of the young Guyanese leader and taking him on his word rather than by his action, made him Lead Head responsible for Agriculture in CARICOM.

IICA and FAO recruited
Thereafter it was all bureaucracy and talk with nothing to show for it. Apart from the resources which he had at his disposal within Guyana’s own oversized and expensive Ministry of Agriculture, Jagdeo was also able to call on the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to assist in developing a framework towards a common regional agricultural repositioning strategy. This included:

• A situation & Outlook Report (May/03) establishing the challenges and requirements of repositioning.

• A Ministers of Agriculture Forum (June/03) which supported the renewed call for action and the Jagdeo Initiative.

• And in July 2004, the Caribbean Heads of Government endorsed the first Proposal containing the Initiative’s vision, scope, focus and process.

Under the Jagdeo Initiative, by 2015, agriculture in the region will have “made substantial progress in its contribution to sustainable growth, within a framework of transparent institutions and good governance that enables the transformation of its products and processes, encourages investment, drives entrepreneurship and assures an acceptable and consistent level of food security.”

Scope and process
The scope of the initiative is to define and implement Interventions to address Key Binding Constraints within the context of the Community Agricultural Policy; Existing and planned complementary initiatives undertaken by national, regional and international organizations; Emphasis on non-traditional products, value-added and intensification of diversification and practical programmes with achievable targets.

The process comprised regular briefing meetings; establishing the context, scope and output of consultations; National Consulta-tions redefining the challenges, opportunities and requirements, regular workshops developing consensus on Key Binding Constraints, framework of Interventions and draft of 2nd Proposal to the Heads of Governments.

The process was to have received validation by the regional private sector and endorsed by the Agriculture Ministers in Jan 2005 and agreed by the Heads of Government in February 2005. For the next several months leading into 2006 there was supposed to be an Inventory of Interventions at National and Institutional Levels.

Overall responsibility for the Initiative was vested in President Jagdeo, with the next line down being the regional Ministers of Agriculture, Ministerial Delegates, Other Stakeholders.

Early criticisms
It seems that at some point around 2005/2006 Jagdeo lost interest in his own initiative and in fact did not even attend a High Level Symposium on the CSME held in June 2006 in Barbados. At the Symposium, Director of Operations and Integration for the Caribbean Region Mr. H. Arlington Chesney in a power point presentation described the initiative, somewhat harshly, as “not a perfect instrument; not a scholarly piece of work; evolving; a kick start and a vision and framework for all”.

Then in October 2010, Mr. Sergio Garcia, the CARICOM Programme Manager for Agriculture described in less than complimentary terms the series of earlier food initiatives that have languished in the region. Those initiatives of which the Jagdeo Initiative was the most recent, were described by Mr. Garcia as having “had limited, if any, success, however, because they have been prepared and executed in isolation from other policies. Actions taken have thus been sparse, diffuse… and uncoordinated.”

Jagdeo and his lead Minister
Mr. Garcia might not know it but that is characteristic of several of the initiatives undertaken by the Jagdeo Administration. Jagdeo also did not help his own cause by having a Minister of Agriculture who was no more focused that he was.

To address the problems of agriculture and food security both regionally and nationally required not only a realistic vision but focus, commitment and sustained work. Instead of these, Jagdeo and his current Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud MBA seem to prefer politics and propaganda with the latter thinking it was all about pepper, papaw, pumpkin and pineapple! Are these guys for real?

That knowing the problem is half the solution did not apply to Jagdeo and his Initiative and consequently it barely advanced beyond the identification of “binding constraints” which any desk exercise could have produced. Paradoxically the Jagdeo Initiative farmed out many of the responsibilities for addressing these constraints to the other CARCOM territories with only a single task assigned to Guyana and even then only jointly with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

While Guyana’s food bill has trebled since the President came up with his initiative, other countries in the Caribbean have long since dispensed with the initiative. In 2008, then Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning said that his country could not “wait for others to lead the way” and that Trinidadians must produce more and consume less; and above all else “we must move towards the highest possible level of food production…”

While Jagdeo speaks disparagingly of the closure of sugar estates in the Caribbean, Manning saw it as “liberating thousands of acres of arable land for food production.” Contrary to what Jagdeo has said about Trinidad, that country has announced the availability of two-acre plots of land to six thousand new farmers and the creation of seventeen new large farms, all of no less than one hundred acres each. That in a country that could fit many, many times into Guyana.

This past week, CARDI hosted in Trinidad Dr S. Ayyappan, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) a public lecture on how agricultural research and development in India helped to reduce hunger in that country. It would have been very useful for Guyana to have invited Dr. Ayyappan to visit Guyana to do a similar talk here and meet with officials but perhaps the campaign agenda did not allow for distractions by such developmental issues.

In Jamaica both the Government and the private sector have demonstrated what could be achieved with national initiatives. While in Guyana the agricultural bank was shut down and NIS money was allowed out for Mr. Duprey’s CLICO, Jamaica was more sensible. There the Export/Import (Ex-Im) Bank of Jamaica is teaming up with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) to collaborate on ideas, and with the National Insurance Scheme for the establishment of special financial facilities aimed at boosting agro-industrial production.

Such financing has been used in SRC-produced technologies in activities that include drying and the preservation of foods, particularly spices and teas; those for smoking, in the case of meats; and canning and concentrate applications, in the case of fruit and vegetable processing. And the Jamaican regional giant GraceKennedy Limited has only just launched the Grace Fresh n’ Ready brand of processed vegetables and official handing over ceremony of a J$43 million post-harvest processing plant in that country. The plant was leased from the Ministry of Agriculture. The facility was the result of a multi-lateral partnership known as the Improving Jamaica’s Agricultural Productivity Project (IJAP) – which received funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) – the Ministry of Agriculture and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and GraceKennedy Ltd.

There must be some realistic doubt whether at some stage Mr. Jagdeo will prepare a status report on his Initiative on which CARICOM was led into spending lots of scarce money.

The silent and dormant agro-processing/packaging plants at Parika and Sophia testify to Guyana’s failure to address its mounting food bill and exploit its huge potential in agricultural products. There must be a sense of both relief and sadness among Guyanese that other Caribbean countries long ago realised that under Jagdeo the region’s agricultural initiative was going nowhere.

Sadness that Guyana blew a wonderful and historic opportunity to stamp its valuable contribution on CARICOM: relief that the other countries did not rely on our President to help them solve their food problems. They would still be waiting.

Meanwhile when I asked a couple of friends about what they know about the Jagdeo Initiative, the most polite response was what is that? One said the LCDS, while another said Amaila. Oh, well.

The Clico fallout – Duprey, Monteil and Geeta Singh-Knight

The Duprey name is legendary in Trinidad and Tobago. Cecil Duprey, a member of an ordinary local family in a matter of decades rose from practically nothing to become a household name in his country. He founded a successful conglomerate, established a business that would probably have been considered too bid to fail and his grandson Lawrence Duprey had visions of taking the company global. He was street smart and while living his vision – first in the Caribbean and then further afield – played the political field as a major supporter of the corrupt Basdeo Panday government. Duprey seems to have won President Jagdeo’s confidence here in Guyana which seems to have made available to him and his company CLICO endless opportunities to invest in Guyana. For example, CLICO’s forestry subsidiary Caribbean Resources Limited was allowed to retain concessions over huge swathes of Guyana’s forests even though it had for years defaulted on its obligations to the Guyana Forestry Commission. Duprey was preferred to DDL for GuySuCo’s molasses and was negotiating for an investment in an ethanol plant.

Mr Lawrence Duprey surrounded himself with some bright accountants, including Andre Monteil, a classmate of mine at South West London College from 1970 to 1973. Monteil is credited with being a key architect of CLICO’s expansion and some of its more aggressive and possibly illegal activities. While Monteil’s role in some transactions made him quite unpopular in Trinidad and Tobago, for the better part of two years, it was felt the Mr Duprey was untouchable. That belief was shattered this past week in Trinidad and both gentlemen are now in some real problems.

Double whammy
Reports emanating from Trinidad and Tobago suggest that the government of that country is moving against Lawrence Duprey and Andre Monteil for civil and or criminal conduct in the collapse of the insurance giant CLICO and its parent CL Financial. A civil lawsuit was filed last Tuesday by Trinidad’s Central Bank and CLICO against Duprey and Monteil for alleged mismanagement and misappropriation of CLICO assets which led to the fall of CLICO in January 2009. Then one day later Attorney General Anand Ramlogan directed that all files coming out of the probe into the collapse of insurance giant CLICO should be forwarded to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard to determine if criminal charges should be laid against Duprey and Monteil. The two hundred page suit should make interesting reading indeed.

Under normal circumstances the authorities in Guyana and the former key officers in CLICO Guyana should be taking great interest in the developments taking place in Trinidad. While the architects of the financial misadventure that has placed our National Insurance Scheme at risk were those in Trinidad, they found compliant Guyanese to carry out the Guyanese leg of transactions, even willing to ignore the country’s laws and defy its regulator. This column had previously called on the Bank of Guyana which has taken over responsibility for regulatory control of the insurance sector to work closely with its counterparts in Trinidad in the investigations and prosecutions of the region’s most expensive financial failure.

Deafening silence
So far we have heard nothing but a deafening silence from the Bank of Guyana whose Governor has, probably dangerously, been appointed the company’s liquidator. I say dangerously because it is not unusual for legal actions to be brought against a liquidator and the person most likely to do so would be the regulator. That is not going to happen even as the liquidation has in essence been contracted out! Indeed my understanding is that CLICO’s former CEO Ms Geeta Singh-Knight is still playing a paid role in the liquidation. We are truly an incredible country.

The CLICO debacle in Guyana has been addressed to some considerable degree in these columns before. I do not intend to do so again. Suffice it to say that the company had breached the provisions of the Insurance Act which require companies carrying on long-term insurance business to invest a base of 85% of its statutory fund in Guyana. In clear contravention of that legal requirement CLICO took the billions of dollars in the Fund and placed it in a related party in The Bahamas, incorrectly claiming that it was invested in Fixed Deposits, a matter that appeared to have escaped the diligent notice of CLICO’s auditors. The directors and officers of CLICO did not comply with a demand/request by the regulator to repatriate the Statutory Fund.

Enter the law. Section 19 of the Insurance Act provides that any person who contravenes any provision of the Act, or any of its regulations or any direction or requirement made by the Commissioner of Insurance, is guilty of an offence. Unlike the normal presumption in law where the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused, the Insurance Act shifts the burden to the “person” to prove that s/he did not knowingly commit the offence of omission or commission.

Sub-section (2) of the section provides that where an offence is committed by a company – in this case CLICO – and the offence is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been facilitated by any neglect on the part of, any director, principal officer, or other officer or an actuary or auditor of the company, he, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence. Ms Singh-Knight was both a director and principal officer of the local company and most certainly it would have been to Ms Singh-Knight that the Commissioner of Insurance would have been addressing correspondence and directions.

There is no doubt in my mind that as the new regulator the Bank of Guyana should have long initiated action against the officers and directors of CLICO Guyana, and that the failure by the BoG amounts in my view to a serious dereliction of duty. Now when the regulator fails, for whatever reason, to protect the public interest, there is trouble indeed. That is the situation we face.

Duprey and Monteil
The question has been posed to me whether Guyana can take similar action here against Duprey and Monteil. That is a question for really seasoned attorneys to answer. The Insurance Act recognizes that insurance may be offered in Guyana by persons who are not in Guyana. In fact the Act defines a person as including “a natural person and any corporation or other entity which is given, or is recognized as having legal personality by the laws of any country or territory.”

The challenge is that the laws of Guyana are generally only enforceable in the country’s courts and the question is under what law can the courts of Guyana compel Mr Duprey to submit to its jurisdiction. Article 38 of the revised Treaty of Chagauramas imposes an obligation on member states of Caricom, within defined limitations, “to remove discriminatory restrictions on banking, insurance and other financial services.”

Oddly, the treaty created a single economic space but left territorial jurisdictions intact, impervious to each territory’s domestic laws. The Caribbean Court of Justice only has original jurisdiction in relation to the treaty and the CSME and appellate jurisdiction from national courts. It may seem commonsensical that crimes or contraventions of provisions of the treaty committed in any territory should be dealt with in that territory. It is certainly worth further consideration and one only has to look at how the US used the long arm of its laws to bring to justice ‘Sir’ Alan Stanford for financial crimes committed in Antigua which defrauded Americans back home.

Local directors
But back to the directors of the local company and in particular Ms Gita Singh, its CEO who was at the centre of the questionable and disastrous transactions. In addition to the infractions of the Insurance Act there were clear breaches of the Companies Act (CA) which governs all companies incorporated or registered in Guyana. S 96 of the Act imposes on every director and officer of a company a duty to (a) act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interest of the company; and (b) exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances.

In the discharge of their particular duties which they have assumed, directors are bound to take reasonable care. Failure to exercise such care constitutes negligence. While the normal legal principle is that directors owe their duty to the company and to no one else, directors may be liable to outsiders for their own wrongs. This means that directors who are parties to a fraud or the commission of any other wrong are personally liable on the general principle that a servant or agent who commits a wrong is liable for damages resulting therefrom as well as the company.
Time to act

We should long ago have started an enquiry into CLICO for possible criminal conduct and the Bank of Guyana should, like their counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago, have begun civil action against them and their Trinidadian masters. This would have been an excellent opportunity to expand on our jurisprudence while penalizing those who break our laws and cause our people and country huge losses.

It may be that the Bank of Guyana is afraid to take action because President Jagdeo has stood by Ms Singh-Knight while he throws red herrings about investigating Globe Trust and CLICO. There must be some good reason for him to want to do so but his failure sends the wrong signal that some people can do no wrong and if they do, there will be no consequences.

Guyana hosts regional accounting conference

Guyanese accountants are this weekend hosting their counterparts from the region in the annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Caribbean (ICAC). This is the region’s umbrella body bringing together accountants of the English-speaking Caribbean. According to the ICAC website its membership is currently made up of seven members and four affiliates. The members are the national institutes of the territories of the region each of which operates under domestic statute.

The conference comes at another of those times when circumstances force the profession and/or the state to confront issues affecting the public interest. Sometimes the profession is affected indirectly rather than directly. One such example was in 1862 when the UK Parliament quickly reversed the 1856 Companies Act which had all but abandoned the mandatory accounting and auditing requirements of the 1844 Companies Act, encouraging a form of laissez-faire accountability. But the most dramatic and direct example of reform within recent memory was the Enron debacle which was quickly followed by a series of corporate failures forcing the US to pass the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. Failure was not restricted to the companies involved, but affected one of the pillars of the auditing profession – the prestigious Arthur Andersen which gave up its licences after being found guilty of criminal charges relating to the firm’s handling of the audit of Enron. The firm won something of a Pyrrhic victory when the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the verdict, but by then the firm’s demise had been sealed.

Blurring profit and professionalism
Only a few years preceding the Enron failure, Arthur Levitt, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of the US had said of the profession: “The audit profession has a long and distinguished history of guarding the integrity of our companies’ financial statements. They must live up to their history… I fear that the audit process, long rooted in independence and professionalism, may be diminished in the name of these increasingly lucrative and commercial opportunities.”

In other words accounting and auditing had become a business and the profession was in danger of individual accountants and firms putting profit and personal interest before the profession. The challenge for the society and the profession is how to balance the pursuit for profits with the objectives of the profession to set and maintain the highest standards of professionalism, to attain the highest levels of performance and generally to ensure that the public is convinced that the hallmark of the profession – independence and integrity – remains intact.

A market economy requires that there be credibility in information and information systems that are fed to shareholders and the public. And that persons who are certified by the accounting bodies to offer professional accounting and auditing services possess the highest standards of technical competence, experience and expertise and performance. Such issues must be ever present in the minds of those with responsibility for the proper functioning of our society.

Top of the chain
The region’s laws give to the accounting profession major and valuable roles to perform in the proper functioning of the economies of the countries. In Guyana these include the Companies Act, which assigns to the accounting profession the power to set and oversee the application of accounting standards and invests it with the sole authority to carry out the audits of locally incorporated or external companies registered to carry on business in Guyana. The Corporation Tax Act requires all companies to support their tax returns with financial statements audited by members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana. The Securities Industry Act and the Financial Institutions Act all assign or delegate to the profession specific roles with regard to compliance with internal controls.

Under the principles of corporate governance the accounting profession in the role of internal auditors is regarded as one of the pillars of sound corporate governance, and in many jurisdictions the Audit Committee is one of the standing committees of the board with defined powers, rights, obligations and reporting responsibilities.

Increasingly too, accountants because of their facility with figures have risen up the corporate ladder and many of the region’s CEOs are either accountants or are MBAs majoring in finance or accounting. By law they sit at the top of the accounting pyramid. In practice they can be both the players and scorers adding to the challenge of meaningful regulation. Those are immense privileges that are sadly not always matched by commensurate responsibilities.

Making accountants more accountable
Enron and its ‘side-kicks,’ Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems and WorldCom may have been perceived by the regional profession as a US problem, and it seems that the region saw itself as a witness to a fascinating spectacle, but no more. Now, faced with Stanford and Clico is the profession in the region right to ignore the possibility that these major disasters which continue to have ripple-down effects on households are as much governance and regulatory failures as they are accounting failures? Hopefully the accountants meeting at the Conference Centre would find time to address this critical issue.

The US tried its best in the face of resistance from the profession to make the profession more accountable, and following the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, self-regulated peer reviews at accounting firms were replaced by independent inspections conducted by the Public Company Accounting and Oversight Board. But that applies only to the US.

Here in the Caribbean, characterised by the smallness of our economies and countries and the nature and size of business units, it is no surprise that the accounting profession is dominated by sole practitioners or partnerships of no more than a handful of persons. There is limited scope for second reviews, peer reviews and quality control or in-house capability to deal with complex technical or ethical issues. And with only four major accounting firms in the world – down from eight a couple of decades ago – real choice even for the big companies is seriously limited for purchasers of audit services. Yet self-regulation is regarded as sacrosanct.

All national legislation provides for a self-regulated profession in which the accountants make or adopt their own technical, professional and ethical rules and oversee and discipline – or fail to discipline – individual members and firms where their conduct has brought the accounting profession into disrepute. It is perhaps no surprise then that one of the objectives of the ICAC is the preservation of the self-regulatory nature of the profession. The profession forgets at its peril that in many cases the failures surface soon after the auditors for those companies have given them a clean bill of health.

It would seem that the Caribbean Institute has abandoned one of its founding objectives, and that is the creation of a standard regional accounting examination, administered initially by one of the international accounting bodies. At the time that decision was taken there was considerably greater disparity in corporate and tax legislation and relevant textbooks were unavailable. Such restrictions have been reduced.

There has been much by way of reform if not harmonization in corporate law and our countries, with the exception of The Bahamas are all signatories to what is popularly referred to as the Caricom Double Taxation Treaty. There is now an excellent text by Dr Claude Denbow on taxation in the Commonwealth, and the region’s law schools have a considerable amount of material on corporate law.

As new legislation is enacted in the region to give effect to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, as the profession is held to be part of the fight against money-laundering, and as our professionals if not our artisans move freely around the Caribbean, the dream of a Caribbean professional accounting qualification that begins with a degree programme from our regional universities should be revived.

The region’s lawyers and doctors have done it. There seems no reason for accountants to hold on to the coat-tails of international accounting bodies principally from the UK to shape our accounting education in the second decade of the 21st century.

Ethics and insurance
Accountants have a duty not only to act ethically, but also competently. Shareholders, investors, tax authorities and other users of the financial statements rely heavily on the yearly financial statements of a company, as they can use this information to make informed decisions about investment and taxation – two issues of major public importance.

The journals of the major accounting bodies reflect an alarming increase in the number of complaints lodged against accountants and auditors. That must be a fraction of the actual incidence of this phenomenon. The public is largely unaware of the finer points of professional ethics, and accountants are loathe to report on their colleagues since they may be as equally culpable. And even if a complaint is lodged, the rules for addressing it are too often unclear and allow for such complaint to be heard only by accountants.

The danger is that self-investigation can become self-protection.
Finally our accountants ought to place on their agenda another problem facing the public in the region, and that is that the bulk of the professional accounting practitioners have no professional indemnity insurance. The regional or national bodies do not require it and the insurance industry is hesitant to offer it. So the client who receives sub-standard advice or shoddy work from his accountant is often left with practically no recourse but to end the relationship. That is no remedy.

Hopefully even as the Caribbean accountants enjoy Guyana’s hospitality and grapple with arcane concepts of IFRSs, the financial crisis and modernising corporate legislation, they will reflect on their overriding duty to the public and the need to restore public confidence in the profession.