Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has unearthed malpractices in the banking sector that could be fuelling cash shortages in the country.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya yesterday said a recent bank inspection has shown that some banks were not conforming to financial regulations.
Officials at a number of banks in the country said some of their colleagues were in hot soup for allegedly taking bribes to exceed withdrawal limits, with some individuals getting as much as $5 000 per day. A majority of banks peg daily withdrawals at $20 daily.
Bank tellers told The Chronicle some of their colleagues were under fire following the RBZ probes across different banks in the city.
A teller who preferred to be anonymous for professional and legal reasons said his bank had failed during the inspection, with the branch manager expected to go for a hearing soon.
“RBZ personnel were here for two days and some of us were interviewed in isolation on issues to do with some people making clients pay money to access cash. Afterwards, we just heard that our branch did not make the cut,” said the teller.
In a telephone interview Dr Mangudya said the central bank was moving towards taking decisive action on banks that were failing to comply with its new rules.
“We put up policies to promote better circulation of money in the country so that the economy can be functional. However, some financial institutions are causing a setback as they are not complying with these set regulations,” he said.
Dr Mangudya could not say how many banks were complying as he said he was yet to see the final report of the investigative exercise.
“I have not seen the report myself as our team is still out there carrying out these exercises therefore at this point I cannot point fingers and say who is doing what and who is not. This is a normal exercise that we carry out on a regular basis to ensure that there is transparency and normalcy in the banking sector. We do inspection exercises on commercial banks and building societies across the country so that all irregularities are fished out and sorted out,” said Dr Mangudya.
“People should understand that there is no cash crisis in the country. The real problem that we have is poor circulation of cash. People have a tendency of wanting to hoard physical money and not bank it, which leads to the long queues in banks, because most of the money in the economy is not circulating.
Whatever money that people get their hands on, they want to keep. There is more money being withdrawn than being deposited. That is where the problem is. People should have a banking culture if our cash situation is to normalise,” he said.
“Non-compliant banks should be warned. They will be charged under the Abuse of Public Office Act and would be liable to long prison terms if convicted.”
Dr Mangudya called for honesty and integrity among people working in the banking sector as he said it was possible to cheat the system.
“It is possible to manipulate the system. However this is a human issue and we entrust the sector in the hands of capable, reliable and trustworthy people.
I urge branch managers to monitor tellers and their activities and bank management to be honest and credible themselves,” said Dr Mangudya.
He, however, highlighted that there were too many employees in the banking industry and as such, it was difficult to trace all illicit dealings.
“There are too many tellers as each bank will have a number of branches across the country, so really for our teams to really follow up on each and every teller would be tedious, we are just entrusting the job in people whom we hope were hired on integrity and met recruitment requirements,” said Dr Mangudya.
Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe executive officer Mr Sijabuliso Biyam said the institution was behind RBZ in moving to ensure that all banks were compliant.
“We are behind the RBZ. We want a situation whereby all 16 registered banks are fully compliant with the RBZ regulations so that we may see an end to this madness and see sanity being brought back to banking halls,” said Mr Biyam.
He could, however, not disclose which banks were found wanting and what action was to be taken.
“We know that there are certain malpractices in some banks, however, we have not yet received feedback from RBZ after commencement of the inspection exercise,” said the BAZ official.
This week, some Chinese nationals and 19 illegal money changers were arrested in Harare, shortly after the gazetting of regulations criminalising cash vending with police recovering $55 000 worth of bond notes, US$1 662 and R6 000.
The suspects were also found in possession of 10 000 Tanzanian shillings and 320 Botswana pula.
Under the new regulations gazetted last week through Statutory Instrument (SI) 122A of 2017 — Exchange Control (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (No 5), police are now empowered to arrest illegal money changers and seize currency in their possession.
The Government has been able to establish that cash vending has become a catalytic agent to both arbitrary price hikes and rent-seeking behaviour.