Bill passes despite drafting blunder
A government Bill was passed in the House of Assembly on Friday night despite a drafting blunder that had technical officers and members of the legislature scrambling to clarify.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health and spokeswoman for legal affairs, was attempting to pass the Proceeds of Crime (Miscellaneous) Act 2018, which sets out the island’s compliance with international financial reporting requirements, when the confusion ensued.
The Bill addresses Financial Action Task Force and Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines for transparency. Bermuda’s submission on this is due this week and is dependent on the Bill passing. Friday’s House session was the last sitting before April 13.
Ms Wilson admitted that some of the amendments had been finalised just that morning, while pieces of paper were being handed to the minister so she could complete her reading of the Bill.
Deputy Opposition leader Leah Scott rose on numerous occasions to say she felt uncomfortable passing a Bill that did not appear to be fully prepared.
Shadow Minister of Economic Development Grant Gibbons said: “This is remarkably indulgent. In the 20 years I have been coming to the House, I have never seen insertions for Companies Act amendments when there is no reference to the Companies Act in the Bill.”
At one point it was even suggested that the House be forced to resit today in order for the Bill to be properly dealt with but eventually it was worked through and passed with no objections. It is still subject to Senate approval.
The Proceeds of Crime (Miscellaneous) Act 2018 made amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1997, the Trustee Act 1975, the Proceeds of Crime (Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2008, the Proceeds of Crime (Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing) Regulations 2008 and Companies Act 1981.
Ms Scott raised concerns about trustee obligations.
She raised the point that the average lay person may have difficulties in understanding the stringent guidelines which could inadvertently put them in breach of the law.
Ms Wilson assured Ms Scott that a lawyer would be responsible for making clear the laws on trustee obligations.
“Some might find it onerous,” Ms Wilson said, “but it is important to get through the mutual valuation.”
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