Monday, June 5, 2023

BSE listed Barclays Bank faces corporate governance storm

Barclays Bank Botswana which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange faces tough corporate governance questions following a number of questionable governance decisions.


Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information suggesting that Barclays Bank Managing Director Reinette Van Der Merwe may be guilty of  conflict of interest row after a company in which her husband Dr Hein Van Merwe is a shareholder was hired by the bank to provide services such as the mentorship of executive management among others.


Hein Van Der Merwe is a partner at GKA Bayete Executive Coaching. According to information on the company’s website, “Hein van der Merwe is a registered professional engineer, an experienced mentor and technical coach for professional engineers and has recently broadened his coaching to executive level.”


 There is growing concern that by allowing her husband’s company to do work for the bank, Reinette and her husband are effectively conflicted.


But when contacted for comment, the bank’s Head of Marketing & Corporate Relations Racheal Mushaike said “Barclays Bank Botswana adheres to international standards of corporate governance and applies rigorous internal processes in appointing and dealing with supplier contracts.”


Mushaike who also stated that she was also responding to another questionnaire sent to Dr Hein Van Der Merwe said, “We have investigated these matters and are satisfied that due process has been followed.”


Sources said that even if there were measures in place to manage conflict of interest, Reinette’s link to the company owned by her husband is seen as conflict of interest. It is not clear who the Van Merwe’s declared their interest.


Another growing concern is that if the disclosure was made to the board led by Rezan Desai it still raises eye brows.


This is so because of claims Desai promised to lobby the Board that Reinette’s contract should be extended while in return Reinette has also promised to lobby the Board to ensure that Desai’s stay at the bank as its Chairman is also prolonged.


The bank was also unable to respond to allegations raised by this publication that at one stage, on of its employee, Philip Lombard’s company was hired to offer consultancy services to the bank but it turned out that it was specializing in Agricultural activities (goats breeding among others).

This was before Lombard who happens to be a family friend to the bank’s Managing Director was hired by the bank as a consultant before he became its employee. The bank could not explain what kind of expertise Lombard provided or provides to the bank because he is a farmer.


It has also emerged that at one stage, Barclays Bank Botswana paid Lombard’s company more than P200 000 and the money was actually paid as his bonus payment as an employee and not a consultant.


The money was credited into Lombard’s company’s bank account because by then he was not legible for bonus payment as he was still awaiting his work permit which was being processed by relevant authorities.


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