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NDB sinks as financial crisis hits hard

Publishing Date : 14 May, 2018

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

The beleaguered National Development Bank (NDB) has started the process of retrenching staff owing to financial crisis that has hit the bank, Weekend Post has established.


Information gathered by this publication indicates that P31 million has been budgeted for the retrenchment exercise, which will start next week following a meeting with the staff union. Weekend Post has been informed by insiders that between the 21st-25 of March management will issue employees with letters indicating the bank’s decision to layoff some staff. “The union had a meeting with with its members informing them about the development, the mood was sombre today [Wednesday],” said the impeccable source.


“The meeting for for the unionised employees was on Tuesday, for the non-unionised was today [Wednesday] — the letters are coming this month end.” The source further indicated that management will then proceed to inform the Commissioner of Labour as well as the minister [Finance and Economic Development] with regard to the imminent retrenchments.


In 2016, NDB requested government to inject capital amounting to about P1 billion in the next three years in order to transform the bank and prepare it for commercialisation.  Last year, it was offered P400 million by government, P10o million of it being a grant while the remaining P300 million was a loan.


Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Lorato Morapedi informed the parliamentary committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises in 2016 that she wants government to inject P400 million in the next financial year, followed by two governments guaranteed loans of P165 million and P250 million in subsequent years.


Morapedi said, in total, for the NDB to stabilise and be in a competitive state, it would need P1 billion.  The committee learnt that NDB problems have been caused by various factors, among them its source of funding and inability to recover its loans. However, NDB has fallen short of the other P600 million initially required by the bank. Sources have informed this publication that NDB has made plans to request another P1.3 billion from government, but the new president is reluctant, and wants a new board at the NDB and CEO first before making considerations. Failure to secure more funding from government means that the bank only has P10 million to disburse as loans this financial year (2018/19).


CRITICISM OF NDB FUNDING MODEL


NDB has been warned that funding its loans from the money acquired from commercial banks is not sustainable for a development bank. The current funding arrangement was brought about by government’s decision to stop issuing bonds to NDB to raise the funds, according to Morapedi. WeekendPost understands that NDB is sourcing its funds from BIFM Capital, Barclays Bank and First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) at interest rate of 8.5 percent, and 9.5 percent for BIFM capital.


When presenting before the parliamentary committee Morapedi conceded that the arrangement is not sustainable given the fact that they are also competing with commercial banks. She informed the committee that NDB has approached government for subsidized funding.
In 2016, NDB’s loan book stood at P1.3 billion, and out of that P600 million had been placed under doubtful debt, of which P300 million will be written off.


Samson Guma Moyo, the chairperson of the committee said the amount which the bank marked as provision for doubtful debt is too high, and the bank should work on reducing that. Morapedi said part of the problem was inherited, and the bank is putting forth monitoring tools to ensure that it improves the loan recovery. She further said the bank currently is doing minimal loaning, as its turn-around strategy focus on non-performing loans.


NDB has also borrowed their staff a total amount of P130 million at interest rate of 5 percent for mortgages and 8.5 percent for personal loans. This has however been questioned by committee member, Pius Mokgware who said though he believes in staff welfare, the bank was borrowing its staff at an interest lower than the interest they are charged by the commercial banks. Morapedi informed the committee that, after turning around the bank, they want to bring on board an equity partner or technical partner as part of its commercialisation strategy.


Government has adopted a commercialisation strategy similar to the one used by BTCL, in which government retains 51 percent in the entity and 49 percent is offered to the public, of which 5 percent will be offered to the NBD employees. She said even after privatisation, NDB will continue to focus on agriculture and SMME funding, and further noted that it will complement other government development institutions such as Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) which is moving away from SMME funding.  Forty-six percent of NDB portfolio is Agriculture.


NDB reports to both Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and Bank of Botswana (BoB). NDB has been able to meet six months regular deadline for the ministry, while failing the three months deadline requirement by BoB of submitting audited financial statements.
Another committee member, Ndaba Gaolathe had said going forward the bank should review source of funding because the current arrangement is not ideal. He said, the bank should also deal with legacy issues and clean out a lot of things.


EMPLOYEES WANT THE BOARD AND CEO FIRED


Several NDB employees who talked to this publication have stated that one way to save the financially riddled bank is to boot out the Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer as well as senior management. One of the complaints that employees have against management is that, there are responsible for the mess at the bank, therefore, part of correcting the problem is bring new management. NDB boss is accused of refusing to listen to suggestions from employees on how best to turn around the fortunes of the bank.


“NDB is at Cul-de-sac as we speak with only P10 million to disburse for 2018/19 financial year. Only government funding will rescue the situation, but if government is to finance NDB this year, they must first get rid of those who made the loss. It will be futile to finance NDB again under the same people,” said one employee. This publication is reliably informed that the bank’s Head of Strategy has tendered her resignation, and will leave the organisation at the end of the month.


Another bank manager, responsible for Maun branch has her contract coming to an end at the end of May 2018, and employees want her also to leave the bank. Public Enterprises and Statutory Bodies committee member Ndaba Gaolathe had previously accused the NDB of lacking ambition and not having a clear vision.


He said as a development bank, they should have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and the impact they want to make in the next years. “NDB should be creative with the products it is offering and diversify the products as well,” he said. In the three years NDB has made losses; P87.8 million (2015) to P48.4 million (2016) and P168.2 million (2017).

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