Imbert says ‘no’ to digital cheques for public use

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert on Monday flatly rejected the idea of letting members of the public issue digital cheques, saying such a process would allow too many possibilities for fraud.

He was in the House of Representatives wrapping up debate on the Bills of Exchange (Amendment) Bill 2022.

He said digital cheques would only be allowed after physical cheques had been issued by a member of the public. Further, such digital cheques would only be allowed to facilitate bank-to-bank transactions, not any individual members of the public.

The bill says how an electronic image of a cheque may be presented for payment. It says a banker must first receive a physical cheque from a customer before presenting an electronic image of it for payment on behalf of the customer.

Imbert said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had customers should be allowed to submit digital images of cheques to banks.

He said, “Now that is precisely the trap we do not want to get ourselves into.

“In this particular instance, physical cheques must still be submitted by the person who signs the cheque.”

Imbert said the physical cheque is first presented, and then its digitisation for inter-bank communication takes place.

“But if we had to put in place a system at this time to deal with digital images of cheques submitted by customers, one would have to create an entire platform for that.

“One would have to put in place a number of cybercrime features, and the potential for fraud would be tremendous. We in Trinidad and Tobago are not ready to allow ordinary citizens to submit digital images of cheques as legal tender. We are not ready for that.”

Imbert also sought to defend the Government’s proposal for regulations for the bill made by the finance minister to be subject to Parliament’s negative resolution, not affirmative resolution. He said Persad-Bissessar had advocated for the latter, arguing that the former gave Parliament no oversight of the regulations.

He argued that negative resolution gave more or equal oversight than affirmative.

In affirmative resolution, the regulations are valid only if passed by a majority in Parliament, while negative means that upon laying in Parliament they will stand unless actively rejected by a majority.

Imbert said, “If members opposite have a concern, they simply file a motion to negative the regulations and there is a debate. In that debate the regulations would be subject to the same scrutiny or perhaps even more than they would be under affirmative resolution.”

He said negative resolution was used in technical matters not needing the whole of Parliament’s attention, unless something was so egregious that the Opposition thought it needed to be subject to debate by the whole House.