Ms. Maria van Beek expressed surprise (SN letter of February 14, 2009) at what she describes as Business Page’s unspecified “assertions and suppositions” (February 8, 2009) on the role of her Office in the Clico issue. She claims that I did not seek her comments on it. She is wrong on both counts.
What did Business Page say about her Office? That it has been silent on the Clico issue (fact then and now); that it is very important for her Office to ask the right questions and to get hard information from the company (vital then, more so now); that the responsibility for supervising Clico’s operations falls entirely under the Commissioner of Insurance (is she disputing that?); that her Office should have been far more proactive than it has been in this matter (is that not a given?) and that the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance simply does not have the resources to properly regulate the sector (fact, just visit her room at the Privatisation Unit in Barrack Street).
But let us set the records straight. When I returned to Guyana on Friday, February 6th, to begin our firm’s preparation for the Budget 2009, I drove straight to Ms. van Beek’s office hoping to meet her in connection with Clico. She was not in office but her secretary spoke to her in my presence. She did not however call me until days later, after the column on Clico had appeared. To say therefore that I did not seek her comments is misleading for someone who regulates an industry subject to the principle of “utmost good faith”. I even had to do some special arm-twisting to get a copy of the 2007 annual report of Clico for which I had to pay her Office $5,400, at the prohibitive charge of $100 per photocopied page.
Almost as if there is nothing unusual about the Clico issue, Ms. van Beek expressed satisfaction that insurance companies have been addressed in BP, adding that she hoped that “this examination of an insurance company’s financials is one of many more to come.” There is no room for banality when $7.5 billion of people’s money in Clico is invested in related parties owned by the CL Financial Group, Clico’s parent which is facing serious liquidity and other difficulties. But yes, Ms. van Beek, just send me the financials and I will review them. Her office should be doing the same and providing informed periodic reports for the benefit of the public.
Too many public bodies are more concerned with protecting their image than in carrying out their mandate. Now that the Governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago is claiming that the situation with the Trinidad group is more serious than first thought, Ms. van Beek should be addressing the public on the substantive issue instead of making small and wrong points about Business Page.
I appreciate Ms. van Beek’s offer of assistance and will be writing her for information to do a follow-up to the February 8 article.