Fri 19th Jun 2009

Are recent job lay-offs at the NCB the tip of the iceberg?

The National Commercial Bank was the brain-child of former Prime Minister, the late Robert Milton Cato. It officially opened in June 1977 and since then has recorded steady growth and set up 10 offices throughout SVG. It has become one of the nation's most reliable employers over the years and the anchor for loans and bank overdrafts for three governments since independence.

In 2008, the leadership of the ULP informed the nation that the NCB has made more profit under their watch than in any other previous administration. However, since taking office in 2001, there have been significant concerns raised by the Director of Audit about excessive bank overdrafts by the ULP regime at the NCB. SVG Green Party calls on the Director of Audit to commission an external audit of NCB.

Requests for reconciliation of the overdraft account by the Director of Audit have been ignored by the ULP regime. The Director of Audit is also very concerned that the overdraft has been exceeding the limit set by Parliament. In 2006, the limit set by Parliament was $40 million, yet the overdraft for 2006 was a massive $136.2 million.

Where does the NCB get its authority to exceed the overdraft limit set by Parliament? This massive overdraft is putting the bank's assets at risk. What is the overdraft loan policy of the NCB? The Board of Directors must be held accountable? The Board has specific responsibility to be the watchdog over the bank's assets. However, in a situation where all the board members are hand picked and appointed by the government, isn't this creating a serious conflict of interest?

Isn't the sudden dismissal of several senior members of the bank's staff, including senior loan and recovery officers, sending a message to the people of our nation that this is the tip of the iceberg within the NCB? One must take into account that the Argyle Military airport has failed to comply with the Companies Act and has not filed an audited statement since it began operations in 2004. Does the IADC have accounts at the NCB? Are these accounts laden with overdrafts? SVG Green Party and the general public have a right to answers to these pertinent questions.

The NCB serves as the central bank in SVG and, if as a central pillar of our economy it is decaying at its core, what message does this send to the nation? SVG Green Party is calling for positive action in dealing with the NCB. If left unattended the NCB can crumble overnight with serious consequences.

We know that the ULP regime's Minister of Finance is highly incompetent in dealing with financial matters. There is a need for the constitutionally appointed Director of Audit to exercise his powers and call for an urgent external audit of the NCB.

Many jobs are being lost in SVG and if the NCB collapses because of the ULP regime's incompetence then more jobs will be lost. The people are suffering under this ULP regime incompetence. The ULP must be voted out at the next election to stop this national decay and hardship.

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