By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
CLICO (Bahamas) clients are unlikely to receive a much-needed Christmas gift after a top government official yesterday confirmed their latest payout is unlikely to be made in time.
Marlon Johnson, pictured, the Ministry of Finance’s financial secretary, told Tribune Business that the fifth payment to the insolvent insurer’s annuity holders and pension beneficiaries may not be made until the New Year as the Government “worked through” the disbursement.
“That’s correct. The money has not been disbursed as yet, but we’re trying to work through it and get the money paid as soon as possible,” Mr Johnson said in response to this newspaper’s inquiries.
“We wanted to the payment before the end of the year. It’s still the plan to do it on this side of New Year, or in the next two to three weeks for sure. It’s busy for us at the Ministry of Finance. We’re doing thousands of things we have to get done, end of year elements sorted out.
“That’s [the payout] still the plan. We’re trying to make the payment before year-end or certainly in the New Year.”
This places the Government in jeopardy of missing the timescale unveiled by K P Turnquest, deputy prime minister, who in late October said the Government was “set to make another payout this year” in the region of $10m.
Some $12.403mm has been allocated in the Government’s 2018-2019 budget for CLICO (Bahamas) compensation payments, with the same sum also earmarked at present for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years.
However, with their hopes of receiving further recovery of their life savings pre-Christmas likely to be dashed, festive cheer among CLICO (Bahamas) annuity holders and pension beneficiaries is likely to be in short supply as the 10-year anniversary of the insurer’s collapse into insolvency on February 2009 looms.
Bishop Simeon Hall, a prominent CLICO (Bahamas) annuity holder, told Tribune Business: “On behalf of policyholders I’m hoping that the Ministry delivers on its promise before the Christmas holiday.
“If the Ministry of Finance puts on the Santa Claus hat and comes through everyone will be happy. I got word something was coming through before Christmas, and I hope that can materialise.
“In these tough economic times, any amount of money is badly needed. On behalf of those who desperately need it, are marginalised. I’m encouraging the administration to keep its promises.”
Tribune Business understands that all persons who needed to approve the fifth CLICO (Bahamas) payout have done so. Apart from the insurer’s liquidator, Craig Tony Gomez, the Baker Tilly Gomez accountant and principal, this included the creditor’s committee, Insurance Commission of The Bahamas (ICB) and the Supreme Court.
However, it is understood that the payout, which is thought to be between $8-$10m, is now simply in the Ministry of Finance’s payment queue. Basil Christie, the CLICO (Bahamas) creditors committee chairman, said: “We had approved a payout from December 14, last Friday.
“Apparently, the Government have not sent the money. That’s as much as I know. I’ve not been successful in contacting the liquidator to get an update. Yeah, I’m concerned. I’d love to have it for Christmas.”
Back in 2016, former Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that the insolvent insurer’s Executive Flexible Premium Annuity (EFPA) holders, and surrendered pension policies, would receive a cash payment capped at $10,000.
Anything owed above this sum was to be paid off via the issuance to former clients of seven-year promissory notes (government bonds), which will provide them with quarterly insurance payments at the Prime rate (4.75 per cent). It was also indicated that surrendered insurance policies, death benefits, medical claims and staff pensions would ultimately be paid in full.