BoN insider dealing raises eyebrows

10 October 2013 Author  

front BoN 11 octTHE news of former Assistant Governor of the Bank of Namibia (BoN) Michael Mukete leaving the central bank to join PointBreak Group Namibia has raised questions of conflict of interest and ethical conduct in the banking sector. The Bank of Namibia has granted a provisional banking licence to a subsidiary of PointBreak called e-Bank, which is what corporate governance and ethical business behaviour campaigners in the country now question.

Mukete, who has served in the highest echelons of BoN and now joins a group that will run a banking outfit, has been privy to information about both the short and long-term plans of the BoN about banking institutions.

The fear exists that he could potentially use that privileged information in favour of e-Bank and to the detriment of other banks in the country.

The former assistant governor was part of the management at the central bank that approved the provisional banking licence of e-Bank.

The Bank of Namibia in response to e-mailed questions said that PointBreak had only offered Mukete the job after the approval of the provisional licence of e-Bank.

The e-Bank applied for the licence in March this year.

“Firstly it should be stated clearly that the Bank has a sworn statement from Mr Mukete stating the he was approached by PointBreak Group Namibia only after the provisional licence was granted,” the spokesperson of BoN Ndangi Katoma said on Thursday.

Katoma also said that it was not possible for Mukete to have single-handedly influenced the granting of e-Bank’s provisional licence.

The Evaluating Committee consisted of 15 people that made a recommendation to the board before the board then made its final decision on granting or declining a provisional or final banking licence.

In a press release issued last week, BoN said that Mukete was now “on a three month cooling off period” that does not allow him to work for any other banking institution in Namibia for that period.

However, it remains unclear what purpose the cooling off period would serve when he had already secured an executive position with PointBreak Namibia.

“The essence of a cooling off period is that because he was approached after the provisional licence was granted and accepted the offer, he was recused before the final consideration of the permanent licence is made, which may be an approval or disapproval,” Katoma said in response.

However, those with knowledge of the operations of BoN said that little chance exists that BoN would turn down e-Bank’s full licence given Mukete’s wealth of knowledge about the operations of the central bank.

Approached for comment about the concerns Mukete said, “I’m in a cooling off period and I may not speak the media until such time has lapsed. You can call me again then, or speak to the bank.”

The central bank granted e-Bank a temporary license in August this year, which is valid for six months to allow the bank to set up its operations.

Barely two months had passed after the granting of e-bank’s licence when Mukete jumped ship at BoN to join the group setting up the new bank.

While serving at BoN, Mukete was privy to inside knowledge on financial markets, information on other banks or even future BoN policies that he could use to the advantage of e-Bank.

Before landing the deputy governor job, he served as Director of Banking Supervision from 2008 to 2010. He joined the central bank in 1997.

This however, is not the first time in Namibia that such a high-ranking official at the central bank joins a financial institution that falls under the bank’s supervision.

In 2003, the then deputy governor, the late Lazarus Ipangelwa, set the precedent when he joined First National Bank of Namibia (FNB) as the bank’s first black CEO.
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