Regulation of insolvency law in South Africa : the need for reform.
Regulatory bodies must function properly in order for their duties to be performed. The performance of the regulatory body impacts the entire insolvency system. Academics have noted that the Master does not meet the standards of what is expected of an insolvency regulator. The Constitution requires that the power of the state be defined and regulated by the law to ensure the protection of the interests of society. State regulation must comply with the underlying values of the Constitution which also includes the protection of the interests of society. The state has a constitutional duty to protect societal interests, ensure that justice is promoted and ensure that just administrative action is achieved. The Master also has the requisite duty to protect societal interests. Academics have found that the objectives and outcomes of the regulation of insolvency law are still not in line with the Constitution and the values and principles it enshrines. Criticisms of the Master’s office include the lack of resources and institutional capacity, the lack of sufficient investigative powers and insufficient guidelines for the Master when applying their administrative discretion when appointing provisional insolvency practitioners. The lack of regulation of insolvency practitioners in South Africa has also been criticised which has a negative impact on the performance of the insolvency industry. Academics have proposed suggestions to reform the regulation of insolvency law in South Africa. However, none of these suggested proposals have been implemented as yet. The most recent development is the draft policy on the regulation of insolvency practitioners that has been submitted to NEDLAC in 2012. The policy aims to provide guidelines relating to the appointment of provisional insolvency practitioners. The policy also includes a code of conduct which insolvency practitioners must adhere to in order to be appointed as a provisional insolvency practitioner. The policy has the potential to provide sufficient guidelines to the Master when appointing insolvency practitioners. The precise guidelines in the policy reflect the need for transformation of the industry and the need for administratively fair decision making. Thus, the provisions of the proposed policy will be effective in countering the criticisms and transforming the insolvency industry and profession. Foreign jurisdictions have also encountered the problem of lack of regulation of insolvency practitioners. To circumvent this problem some foreign jurisdictions have made the recent development of adopting (or considered adopting) self-regulation or co-regulation of insolvency practitioners. In comparison to South Africa, they have made more progress towards improving the regulation of insolvency practitioners. The result of this is that South Africa is out of step with foreign jurisdictions. It is imperative that South Africa adopts reform initiatives to strengthen the regulation of insolvency law.
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