Legislation has been changed to obligate banks to hand over confidential information to other agencies such as the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) – such units must understand, however, that the confidentiality of that information cannot be violated, as set out in law.
This is the position adumbrated on Tuesday by the Guyana Association of Bankers (GAB), which says it cannot, in any way, condone the breach of confidentiality and publication of a customer’s information, whether accurate or inaccurate, and recent violations are cause for concern and dismay among members.
The Bankers’ Association was at the time reacting to the publication in sections of the media of several bank account numbers, balances and other assets and holdings in several companies locally of Omar Shariff, the embattled Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency.
Shariff was sent on leave last month by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, in order to facilitate the investigation by SOCU.
The banking community representatives, by order of its Executive Committee, on Tuesday said GAB was compelled “to publicly record its concern given that the publication of bank account information of any person should never occur”.
GAB, by way of a public statement, said: “Confidentiality of financial information is the hallmark of bankers’ obligations to its customers…Accordingly, breach of confidentiality and publication of this information, whether accurate or inaccurate, cannot be condoned.”
The Bankers’ Association has since used the occasion to remind respective officers and staff members alike that they are continually “bound by the obligation of confidentiality and there is continual emphasis on secure handling of customers’ information at all times”.
GAB also used the occasion to point out too that Section 63 of the Financial Institutions Act as was amended in 2015 “compels financial institutions to provide account information to authorised agencies”.
In what could be read as a veiled yet direct statement to SOCU, the banking group reminded that these agencies were also bound to maintain confidentially and only use the information provided for the purpose for which it was garnered and no other.