Access to banking info: PSC wants data protection with new Bill

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Chairman of the PSC, Norman McLean
Chairman of the PSC, Norman McLean

[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Private Sector Commission (PSC) says while it welcomes the Financial Institutions (Amendment) Bill currently before Parliament, it has several concerns as it relates to data protection and privacy rights.

The Bill gives permission to the Revenue Authority to access the financial banking data of citizens in an effort to aid tax enforcement mechanisms and should reduce the incidence of tax avoidance.

The PSC in an official letter to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, noted that “We are cognizant that the granting of legislative authority for access to citizens’ bank account data is not peculiar to Guyana and many countries around the world, particularly the more developed ones, have similar provisions in their legislation. However, jurisdictions where such legislation exists usually have corresponding provisions dealing with criteria for access and protection of the data once accessed or released.”

According to the PSC letter, “We have researched this issue and have found examples in the United Kingdom which has a Data Protection Act and in the United States of America where the protection is built in to the same Act which provides for access, along with Regulations governing the criteria for federal revenue authority’s access to and usage of the data. As a short term measure, the latter approach may be more prudent while we develop a more general data protection mechanism.”

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams

The PSC noted that in the absence of a Data Protection Act, they would prefer to see an Amendment which caters to these concerns, and corresponding Regulations guiding the Guyana Revenue Authority on the following, inter alia:

–           Criteria governing requests for access

–           Notice to be served on citizens regarding intended request for access along with an indication of the law for which enforcement is being sought via such access

–           Care and control which such data is in the custody of the Revenue Authority

–           Recourse available to citizens if said data is unlawfully released or published by the Revenue Authority

 

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