Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BNM sets end-June deadline for new Shariah framework

By Habhajan Singh & Farah Saad
Some Islamic banks and takaful operators may not meet the end-June deadline to comply with the requirements of the Shariah Governance Framework for the Islamic Financial Institutions, issued by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), which took effect on Jan 1.

It is understood that some Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) coming under the ambit of the framework issued in October 2010 are still behind the curve with the full implementation of the framework which includes establishing an "end-to-end Shariahcompliant control mechanism" for all aspects of their business operations to ensure that "all activities are Shariah-compliant".

"The central bank has paid a visit to some local IFIs to check on their preparedness for the framework," one industry source told The Malaysian Reserve.

BNM deputy director for Islamic banking and takaful department Rustam Mohd Idris told a forum discussing the framework in Kuala Lumpur on Monday that "our deadline is our deadline".

The document marks another key milestone in the development of Islamic finance in Malaysia and also another first for Malaysia in the global Islamic finance arena.

In the 50-page document, the central bank said it has developed the framework with "the primary objective of enhancing the role of the board, the Shariah Committee and the management in relation to Shariah matters, including enhancing the relevant key organs having the responsibility to execute the Shariah compliance and research functions aimed at the attainment of a Shariah-based operating environment".

The framework is applicable to all Islamic bank licensed under Islamic Banking Act 1983 (IBA), takaful and retakaful operators registered under the Takaful Act 1984 (TA), financial institutions licenced under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989 (BAFIA) that participates in the Islamic banking scheme, and development financial institutions prescribed under the Development Financial Institutions Act 2002 (DFIA) that participates in the Islamic banking scheme.

"The new framework is more comprehensive and provide guidance on Shariah audit, Shariah review, Shariah risk management and Shariah research function," said Mohammad Faiz Azmi, who leads the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Islamic Finance Team and is also the chairman of the Malaysian Accounting Standards Board.

Speaking at the forum on Monday, organised by ZI Shariah Advisory Sdn Bhd which is the Shariah arm of legal firm Zaid Ibrahim & Co, he said the framework also has "stricter requirements" in terms of qualification.

He said paper qualification was not mandatory in the old framework but the new framework requires that the majority of members in the Shariah Committee shall at least hold a bachelor's degree in Shariah from a recognised university.

The new framework replaces Guidelines on the Governance of Shariah Committee for IFIs issued in 2004.

At the same forum, International Shariah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA) senior researcher Prof Dr Ashraf Md Hashim pointed out that one of the special features of the new framework is the inclusion of a clause for succession planning for Shariah Committee members.

In section four of the framework, it states: "The IFI should develop a succession planning programme for the Shariah Committee members by identifying, hiring and nurturing new members with the view to entrusting them with greater responsibilities as and when appropriate."

The first objective of the new framework is to set out the expectations of BNM on IFIs' Shariah governance structures, processes and arrangements to ensure that all its operations and business activities are in accordance with Shariah.

It also intends to provide a "comprehensive guidance" to the board, Shariah Committee and management of IFIs in discharging its duties in matters relating to Shariah, and outlines the functions relating to Shariah review, Shariah audit, Shariah risk management and Shariah research istitutions are still behind the curve on full implementation of the framework which includes establishing an 'end-to-end Shariah-compliant control mechanism' for all aspects of their business operations.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on 16 February 2010. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh)

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