A legal practitioner from the Ofﬁce of the Ombudsman Eileen Rakow has warned that the irretrievable money lost in so called South African investments by the SME Bank will cost Namibian citizens severely.
“What is concerning is that a lot of the money that the SME Bank held in deposits came from state enterprises like the Social Security Commission. That means money that took place by the SSC on behalf of the citizens of this country is gone; it’s our loss. The same with NamWater money and it will have to be made up from somewhere else,” she said.
She further said that the man on the street might not feel the impact of the loss at SME Bank until service delivery which should have been funded by the lost money begin to crumble. “To us, the bottom line is that those entities that were supposed to build roads, offer social security, bring in pipelines for water will be affected, and the tax payers will not get those services. Think about what we could have done with such money in a country like ours. But you do not feel it until you do not have your services.
That is our money; it was stolen,” she said. While investigations are already under way as the bank goes through liquidation, Rakow warned that detaining the culprits involved in the “theft” at the bank will likely take time, about a year or two.
Although the central bank acted on legitimate grounds to call the bank to order and ﬁle for its closure, she laments its weaknesses in procedure saying that the governor could have worked timely. “I think our process was too long. Since we realised that we have a problem in August last year until June this year when the application was brought, it’s almost a year. So we will have to strengthen our processes. But what had to be done was done. But still, the money was stolen,” she said.
She also said, “I still do not know how the Bank of Namibia did not pick up these transfers. So due diligence that was supposed to be done at the SME Bank was not done.” SMEs Representative Twapewa Kadhikwa tore into the brains behind the closure of the bank as having erred in failing to consider the implications of their decisions on small businesses and the generality of the economy.
“Can you see the people that are making decisions for people that have cash ﬂ ow problems or life problems? And the ones that are making the decisions are in the board rooms saying “Put on the air-con”, “Can I have a coffee please”.
If you do not know my reality I do not think you can make big decisions for my life,” she said with an air of sarcasm. She said the verdict reached the bank and its consequent provisional liquidation shows that government does not genuinely consider SMEs as an economic backbone.
“SMEs are a critical component of economic development. I want the government to understand that all this Vision 2030, growth at home, nothing can happen without the entrepreneurs,” she said. Leonard Kamwi NCCI Public Policy Advisor said the closure of the bank could kill the country’s entrepreneurial spirit while he afﬁrmed that the Bank would exchange ownership.
“In the event of the closure of that bank, there are consequences. Hopefully, the bank will be disposed to another individual who will utilise this. There is one element in this whole equation that might be affected, and that is the entrepreneurial spirit, that is what we cannot afford to do,” he said. These sentiments were raised in a panel discussion recently in the capital at the behest of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation that interrogated the implications of the closure of the SME bank on the future of small businesses.