There is a myth now pervasive in society that holds that corruption is only committed by state officials and government agencies. The truth is quite the opposite. Corruption, trickery and fraudulent ploys are also orchestrated by the private sector, even by reputable banks that usually claim the moral high ground of professional competency and transparency.
It is also evident that some banks are operating without any constraints and the watchdogs that are supposed to protect the interests of the public have been found sleeping. Institutions such as the Bank of Namibia, Namfisa, the Ombudsman’s Office and the ACC all have their mandates, but for consumers there is no effective shield from powerful institutions like banks. Banks wield power over some governments and we can only hope that this is not the case in Namibia.
In a developing society like Namibia, people require protection from financial ploys and shady deals run by the corporations that straddle the globe in search of profits. Every citizen is not only entitled to safety and protection by the various security agencies, but should also be protected against financial scams that can bankrupt whole countries.
At the moment there is no organised platform to protect citizens of the country against institutional fraud. What we have is individuals or small groups who endeavour to protect consumers, but they often face tidal waves of opposition from government and other quarters.
The time is right to create a strong consumer lobby group and an auditing institution that can scrutinise institutions like banks that work with people’s finances. The consumer needs to be protected against manipulation and rigging of interest rates, while the Bank of Namibia, or a constitutional public finance watchdog, should ensure that citizens are not robbed of their meager savings by unscrupulous financial institutions.
The mission of BoN states; “In support of economic growth and development our mandate is to promote price stability, efficient payment systems, effective banking supervision, reserves management and economic research in order to proactively offer relevant financial and fiscal advice to all our stakeholders.”
It is worrisome that consumers, especially the bank clientele, are left to their own devices to resolve their issues, even in cases where they are ostensibly victims of financial thievery, related to corruption or manipulation of interest rates by commercial banks, as demonstrated in the latest scandal involving Barclays and other major banks in the UK and US.
Hysterical reports about Barclays’ apparent manipulation and under-reporting of interest rates in the UK has sent shockwaves globally. Now that these financial crimes of the banksters, involving trillions of dollars, have come to the fore with such irrepressible force it becomes clear that their under-handed practices affected unsuspecting home-owners, students with study loans and the general bank clientele worldwide.
Mechanisms need to be created to deal with financial fraud in order to protect ordinary consumers. When ODC’s N$100 million and GIPF’s N$1 billion disappear into thin air, when Avid’s N$30 million cannot be recovered, when commercial farms are politically distributed, when houses are dubiously auctioned off and when communal land is fenced off by the most powerful, there should be some recourse to justice. If not, our country will be degraded to the level of a banana republic, where survival of the fittest thrives, while the struggle for survival degenerates into Hobbes’ war of all against all, as many sink ever deeper into poverty as a result of such trickery by the very institutions claiming the financial and moral high ground.
Banks should not be allowed to indirectly rule countries. That’s the job of elected politicians. Banks don’t need to operate in a vacuum under a shroud of secrecy, but must be under the watchful eye of a public body that protects the interests of customers, the public and the country at large.