Financial ombudsman draft bill ready

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WINDHOEK – The drafting of the Financial Services Ombudsman Bill has been finalised, with the bill currently undergoing in its final round of reviewing with the finance ministry, the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) said this week.

It has been a marathon drafting session for the regulator, since the bill was first mooted with the introduction of Financial Sector Reform Strategy in late 2011. 

Speaking to New Era, after Namfisa’ pronouncement on Tuesday, the Minister of Finance, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the ministry is still in the process of securing input for the bill before sending it to cabinet for approval before tabling it in parliament. Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) said it has finalised the drafting of the Financial Services Ombudsman Bill, which will change the way the financial services industry has been operating in the country.

“The FSO is a statutory officer who deals independently with complaints from consumers about their individual dealings with all financial service providers,” said Namfisa in its Regulatory Framework Newsletter for June.

“This review entails policy matters and once this process is finalised the legal drafting of the FSO Bill will be amended for such policy changes. The legal drafting process has also commenced and runs parallel to the policy issues that still needs to be resolved by the Minister of Finance as the policy maker,” stated Namfisa.

The finance minister says such a body is long overdue because there is a need for someone to listen to concerns regarding the way financial institutions treat the public.

“This bill has been long time coming because in the past we had Namfisa but that is not in line with best practices for non-banking financial institutions. To have Namfisa regulate non-banking institutions and at the same time receive grievances from those services by those very same financial institutions does not create a conducive environment, therefore it is better we have a separate entity,” she explained.

Namfisa regulates non-banking financial institutions while the Bank of Namibia (BoN) regulates banking financial institutions.

The Financial Services Ombudsman will look at financial businesses such as insurance companies, pension funds, medical aid funds, banks and other entities registered with Namfisa and BoN and the ombudsman’s services will be free to consumers.

This she said will also help to achieve consolidation between banking and non-banking institutions.

“As for businesses registered only under the Companies Act, they will not resort under the financial ombudsman, but we are working on another bill that will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Consumer Protection Bill, that will protect consumers of goods and services provided by these companies,” she said.

Namfisa said the Financial Services Ombudsman would ensure that the rights of users of financial services are maintained and justice is not denied because of the users inability to afford legal costs of engaging lawyers.

“It is important for Namibians to have confidence and participate fully in the local financial system and amongst others, a well-functioning Financial Services Ombudsman will create an environment, which instills confidence in our financial sector and encourages maximum participation as the rights of users of financial services are protected,” said Namfisa.

By Mathias Haufiku

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