Fica de­lay raises ques­tions

CityPress - - Voices -

In June, Par­lia­ment passed the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre Amend­ment Bill, an im­por­tant piece of leg­is­la­tion meant to strengthen the fight against money laun­der­ing and other il­le­gal abuses of the bank­ing sys­tem.

The bill, con­cluded af­ter ex­ten­sive pub­lic in­put and a com­pre­hen­sive de­bate in the na­tional leg­is­la­ture, also aims to bring South Africa in line with the re­quire­ments of the Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force, the global body that over­sees the in­tegrity of the fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

The task force en­sures that the sys­tem is not abused by ter­ror­ist groups and crim­i­nal syn­di­cates.

The bill was sent to Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma to sign be­fore the task force’s stip­u­lated Fe­bru­ary com­pli­ance dead­line. A lengthy pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process en­sued. Then, as the dead­line ap­proached, there sud­denly came a flurry of ob­jec­tions from groups which had not made use of the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process.

One of th­ese ob­jec­tors was the Black Busi­ness Coun­cil, a re­spectable group which should sup­port mea­sures aimed at en­sur­ing good fi­nan­cial gov­er­nance and eth­i­cal con­duct. The pre­dictable – and more un­der­stand­able – ob­jec­tion came from the Pro­gres­sive Pro­fes­sion­als Fo­rum, com­prised mainly of Mzwanele Manyi and his Twit­ter ac­count.

Zuma cor­rectly un­der­took to ap­ply his mind to the ob­jec­tions be­fore sign­ing the bill. Nearly five months passed, dur­ing which Zuma found time to at­tend the Vo­da­com Dur­ban July horse race and the Reed Dance, to ad­dress elec­tion ral­lies and to dodge Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s ques­tions about state cap­ture.

This week – three weeks af­ter the Coun­cil for the Ad­vance­ment of the SA Con­sti­tu­tion filed a court ap­pli­ca­tion com­pelling Zuma to act on the bill – the pres­i­dent re­ferred it back to Par­lia­ment. He cited con­cerns about its con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity, par­tic­u­larly in terms of the bill’s “im­per­mis­si­bly over­broad” pro­vi­sions for the in­va­sion of the “in­ner sanc­tum” of peo­ple’s pri­vacy, and the broad pow­ers it gave to a pro­posed “in­spec­tor”. He urged Par­lia­ment to fix the bill to bring it in line with the Con­sti­tu­tion.

While South Africa should wel­come Zuma’s dis­cov­ery of his con­sti­tu­tional bone, the tim­ing of his in­ter­ven­tion is sus­pect. Par­lia­ment should have ended its 2016 ses­sion this week, but ex­tended it to next week to deal with un­fin­ished busi­ness. This means Zuma did not see any ur­gency in the bill be­ing fixed be­fore Par­lia­ment re­sumes on Fe­bru­ary 9.

By the time the leg­is­la­ture gets the chance to do proper work on the bill – and the Na­tional Assem­bly gets to de­bate and vote on it – the dead­line is likely to have passed.

This begs the ques­tion: Whose in­ter­ests does it serve to leave our fi­nan­cial sys­tem vul­ner­a­ble to money laun­der­ing and il­licit out­flows of cash?

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