Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Bank of Botswana in cloak and dagger intrigues to sack FNB Chief

Fresh information has surfaced suggesting dirty tricks in the Bank of Botswana to attempts to get the Chief Executive of First National Bank Botswana, Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana sacked. In an anti-climax to the excitement that greeted the localization of the FNBB CEO post with the appointment of the first Motswana woman to the plum position, Boakgomo-Ntakwana was this week reported to have been fired. Boakgomo-Ntakhwana’s sacking is the latest incident in the behind the scenes head butting between the Central Bank command and commercial bank’s leaders.

The boardroom brawl escalated recently when the regulator took a drastic decision to suspend bank charges. Insiders, however, say the bad blood over bank charges only tell half the story behind the FNBB boss’ sacking. The official version is that FNBB under Boakgomo-Ntakhwana is guilty of corporate governance lapses, whispers in the financial sector corridors, however suggest that the decision was more personal than official.

“Corporate Governance is only a pretext,” said a bank executive. This is because the lapses for which FNBB is being accused are widespread across the banking industry mostly a result of legal loopholes. Two years ago FNBB sacked a family member of Bank of Botswana Governor Linah Mohohlo for gross misconduct. He was an executive responsible for the treasury. The Governor, it turns out never forgave FNBB, especially the Chief Executive for sacking a close member of the regulator’s family.

When contacted the Head of Communications at Bank of Botswana, Andrew Sesinyi would not shed light on why Bank of Botswana had put into motion a process to get FNBB boss sacked. Sesinyi said it was against the Bank of Botswana rules to make public communication between the regulator and the banks. “Consistent with the bank’s mandate and obligations under the Banking Act and related other laws, any supervisory action imposed on the bank or contemplated against any supervised financial institution is a confidential matter between the regulator and the concerned bank,” said Sesinyi.

Attempts to talk to Ms Mohohlo since the matter has since assumed personal undertones were spurned by her senior aides. At a press conference addressed by Mohohlo following the launch of the Monetary Policy Statement, one of the Deputy Governors, Moses Pelaelo said it was part of the regulatory roles of Bank of Botswana to monitor the “quality of discussions at Board levels, the quality of Management, and quality of personnel.” Pelaelo made references to a “fit and proper test” as something that goes on all the time. A quick perusal of FNBB financial statements does not reveal any lapses on the management of Boakgomo-Ntakhwana to have failed a “fit and proper test.”

FNBB is currently the biggest bank in Botswana by market capitalization, having surpassed Barclays and Standard Chartered ÔÇô two old horses that have for long dominated Botswana market. “The reason why we have not had a bank failure is because of vigilance by Bank of Botswana,” said Pelaelo.

FNB Head of Communications Bomolemo Selaledi said FNBB does not have any information on impending attempts by Bank of Botswana to get CEO removed. “Nothing has been communicated to us as the bank”. Selaledi added that Boakgomo-Ntakhwana is currently on study leave in the United States.

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