In an effort to recover monies owed to the Student Revolving Loan Fund by delinquent borrowers, the Student Revolving Loan Fund Management Committee (Committee) has resorted to naming and shaming delinquents by publishing their names in the print media. I wish the Committee well in its efforts but I am afraid that it is going to be difficult to shame persons who seem to be devoid of any conscience. They made use of the funds and now have no compunction about not repaying so that others can benefit, as they did.
Many of these heartless defaulters had asked friends and family members to be guarantors. Now that the loans are in arrears, these kind-hearted souls are left holding the bag and are required to repay the debt. Unfortunately, in many cases, the guarantors are retired public officers who rely solely on their pensions to keep body and soul together. And now without showing any mercy, the Committee has issued instructions to the Accountant General to garnish their pensions.
I do not know if the Accountant General has acted upon those instruction but the Committee will soon find out, if they have not already done so, that it has no authority to issue those instructions.
Pensions granted to retired public officers are intended to maintain the pensioners’ quality of life, and can only be levied upon in very limited circumstances. Regrettably, satisfying another person’s commitments to the Student Revolving Loan Fund does not qualify. Section 15 of the Pensions Act states:
15. A pension, gratuity or other allowance granted under this Act shall not be assignable or transferable except for the purpose of satisfying
(1) a debt due to the Crown or a debt due to the Housing Authority under the Public Officers Housing Loan Fund Rules, 1958;
(2) an order of any court for the periodical payment of sums of money towards the maintenance of the wife or former wife or minor child of the officer to whom the pension, gratuity or other allowance has been granted, and shall not be liable to be attached, sequestered or levied upon for or in respect of any debt or claim whatever except a debt due to the Crown or a debt due to the Housing Authority under the Public Officers Housing Loan Fund Rules, 1958.
The Student Revolving Loan Fund is not the wife or minor child of any of the guarantors and it is certainly not the Crown. It is a statutory board established by section 3 of the Student Revolving Loan Fund Act. Section 4 established the Student Revolving Loan Fund Management Committee, and goes on to say at subsection (2):
“The Committee shall be a body corporate and section 21 of the Interpretation Act, Cap. 1 applies thereto”.
For the purposes of this article, part of subsection (1) is relevant, it states:
21. (1) Where an Act passed after the 16th June 1966, contains words establishing, or providing for the establishment of, a body corporate and applying this section to that body those words shall operate-
(a) to vest in that body when established-
(i) the power to sue in its corporate name;
(ii) the power to enter into contracts in its corporate name, and to do so that, in relation to third parties, the body shall be deemed to have the same power to make contracts as an individual has;…
This does not mean that a guarantor, who is a government pensioner, does not have to repay the loan in the event that the borrower fails to honour his/her commitments to the fund. It means that the Committee would have to take those pensioners/guarantors to court to see if they have any means to pay, other than their pensions.
While I condemn, in the strongest terms, those borrowers who refuse to repay their debt to the Student Revolving Loan Fund, the Committee must share in the blame for accepting men of straw to be guarantors.