Friday, 25 January 2013 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - Senator and economics commentator Lennox Weston has said the latest quandary surrounding the Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB) is “not a major issue”.
Weston was responding to media reports that ACB had been evicted from the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE) for consistently failing to meet the annual deadline for submitting audited financial statements, in keeping with international norms.
According to Weston, the bank’s management had admitted to him that ACB had defaulted once again in submitting the accounts information on time.
“From what I understand,” he said, “traders have requirements, and what ACB told me is that they failed to submit their audited accounts.”
He added that based on additional information reaching him, the bank should be back on the Exchange within four to six weeks.
But with that said, the senator has chided the bank’s management for not taking legal responsibility to produce financial statements seriously. He believes it is the government’s fault for creating a “culture” of noncompliance in the financial industry.
“So, there is a general slackness. Government don’t make a fuss, stakeholders don’t make a fuss and the people don’t either,” Weston said, adding that the ECSE might be one of the few institutions that would be looking to force such compliance.
“We are not accustomed to strict enforcement like in North America,” the senator said. “It is a cultural issue, and reflects on poor management at ACB, who clearly don’t see the incentives of getting it (audited statements submitted) done on time.”
He went on to note that based on his communication with the bank, the matter is not being treated with any sense of urgency.
“They don’t see it as a big thing… it has little effect on them. Because all they do is trade government bonds anyway, and government has reduced the level of business it sends to them due to their unwillingness to guarantee,” Weston said.
ACB’s license revocation from the ECSE brings the total number of local banks on the Exchange to one – Antigua & Barbuda Investment Bank (ABIB).
When contacted for a comment on the matter, economist within the Ministry of Finance Gail Gordon declined to offer an opinion. She said the matter is one that should be handled by the personalities running the financial institution.
“It is a matter for them to publicize,” Gordon said.
A prominent banker in Antigua & Barbuda said that while he was unfamiliar with the details of the case at hand, the question of whether or not the country benefits much from being on the Exchange is one that the industry must examine.
The source opined that one of the reasons local banks might not find it a priority to be on time with the ECSE could be the limited volume of business it generates in the overall scope of the banks’ activities. This fact, he said, could be credited to the number of local businesses who actually trade on the ECSE – a number that is startlingly low when compared to other countries throughout the Caribbean.