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Senate body okays SECP, financial institutions bills

Senate body okays SECP, financial institutions bills

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Finance approved the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2016 and the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) (Amendment) Bill 2016 on Tuesday, besides approving an amendment to the Credit Bureaus (Amendment) Ordinance 2016.

These bills, already approved by the National Assembly, will now be forwarded to the Senate and, if approved, will need the presidential assent to become a law.

The SECP Bill 2016 covers all the deficiencies and shortcomings in the existing law. The commission succeeded the Corporate Law Authority (CLA) in 1999 as a unified regulator of the capital markets, and for the superintendence and control of corporate entities.

However, its mandate has continued to be enhanced through various amendments, such as floatation, management and regulation of modarabas (1999), insurance sector (2000), non-banking financial companies sector (2002), commodity futures market (2003), real estate investment trust (2008), etc.

The new law will meet the local and international requirements for the corporate sector regulator, including the requirements of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions.

Among the major deficiencies in the existing SECP Act 1997 there is limited financial/administrative independence.

Besides, the SECP has ineffective enforcement powers to call for information, lack of process for prosecution of cases, recovery of penalty, delay in decision of court cases, ex-parte stays and inadequate investigation powers.

The act also has no statutory provision to seek international cooperation and extend assistance to a foreign regulatory authority in investigation and inquiries. Independent audit oversight framework is also needed to ensure quality of audit of public interest companies.

Furthermore, the Financial Institutions Bill 2016 was promulgated in 2001, primarily to deal with the recovery process of the bank loans.

The Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance (FIRO) 2001 provided a comprehensive legal framework on foreclosure, especially Section 15 which empowered the financial institutions to sell the mortgaged property. However, the Supreme Court in December 2013 declared the section as “ultra vires” (beyond legal power and authority) to the Constitution.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) initiated the process of consultation among the relevant stakeholders to frame the amendments in the FIRO in the light of the SC judgment and requirement of the financial institutions.

The new bill is meant to facilitate recovery of bank loans. The pecuniary limit of High Court cases is proposed to be enhanced to Rs100 million to reduce the burden of cases on superior courts. The loans availed from Pakistani banks in other countries would also fall under the ordinance.

The wilful default would be an offence under the ordinance. Furthermore, provisions to sell mortgaged property without intervention of court have been revised.

The proposed amendments are aimed at promoting healthy credit culture in the country, reduce risks of default and create additional funds for lending to new segments of borrowers.

These measures taken together would stabilise the financial system and contribute to sustainable economic growth in the country. The bill was cleared by the National Assembly on March 17.

The Credit Bureaus Act, 2015 was enacted on Aug 19 last year to provide a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for incorporation and functioning of private credit bureaus in the country.

Under the act, credit bureaus are responsible for collecting credit information relating to debtors of banks, financial institutions, non-banking financial institutions, non-financial companies and other lenders or authorities and maintain data of such information and for provision of such information on request for specified purposes to facilitate efficient distribution of credit.

However, an amendment has been made in the bill to delete the Section 15(4) of the act: “Any credit information report issued by a credit bureau shall be verified by the SBP and no credit information report shall be valid unless verified by the SBP.”

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2016

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