Whistle blowing: Bank workers under close watch
Banks have placed their workers under close watch following intense pressure by ‘big’ customers on majority shareholders and directors to monitor overzealous staff eager to take advantage of the whistle blowing initiative of the federal government.
Account Officers from different banks told our correspondent the development was to prevent them from squealing on classified accounts by perceived looters and corrupt government officials.
One of them, who confirmed the development off-record yesterday, said: “The close monitoring is very intense now as everyone now watches each other’s back.”
But a Senior Account Manager in one of the commercial banks in Lagos, who also pleaded not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said the development was not new.
He however admitted it has been increased lately.
According to him: “Monitoring of bank workers is not new but it may be true we are more closely monitored today than what obtained before the introduction of the whistle blowing initiative.
“That is understandable because there is the feeling amongst the top management that some overzealous workers, in a bid to take advantage of the initiative, may embarrass genuine prime customers.
“This may account for introduction of measures to ensure no staff abuses his or her office to the detriment of the bank.
“Besides this internal precaution, bank staff members and indeed banks are closely monitored by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) in a bid to recover looted funds,” he said.
Explaining how bankers are being monitored, the top banker said: “Today, bank workers are closely monitored in two ways; officially and unofficially.
“Officially, we are monitored by regulators like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“There are also internal measures to ensure that bank members of staff do only what they are supposed to do.
“This may differ from bank to bank. The practice is real though I cannot say here that such measures were introduced because the so-called big customers are mounting pressure on directors.
“Perhaps, because the anti-corruption agencies know that bank workers occupy sensitive positions that may enable them to collude with public funds looters, they are today monitored more closely than politicians.”
Another top bank worker at the Corporate Headquarters of one of the commercial banks in Lagos Island, who also pleaded not to be named, gave our correspondent a more precise description of how government agencies and bank management monitor workers in banks.
“Recently, we were asked to fill Assets Declaration Forms. With this, they are able to monitor the progress rate of each staff.
“Of course you know that with BVN, everybody’s accounts can be traced easily. Even if a banker has ten accounts in different banks, it would be easy to trace them.
“In anticipation of false claims of sudden financial windfalls, they have also banned bank workers from betting. This means that no banker, found with suspicious huge sums of bank balance or assets he cannot ordinarily acquire with his income can claim to have become a billionaire overnight through betting.”
The banker also explains that the regulators have set out certain guidelines that will help monitor workers and the banks themselves.
“One of the policies currently employed to achieve this is the directive that all of us must regularly make Suspicious Transaction Report (STR).
“Another is the requirement to report to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Nigerian arm of the global Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) domiciled within the EFCC.
“These are part of the official monitoring procedures in practice today. It is perhaps the increasing demand to abide by these requirements that some workers are referring as undue monitoring,” he said.
Efforts to get the confirmation of the CBN could not yield result as the Acting Director of Communication of CBN, Isaac Okoronkwo, neither picked his calls yesterday nor responded to our text message.
But Chief Iheanacho Uko, a former banker and Principal Partner of U & A Consulting Ltd, said there is nothing strange with banks monitoring the activities of their staff.
Quoting the “general guidelines on institutional policy of anti-money laundering/ combating,” he said there is nothing wrong with banks initiating internal measures to ensure their staff behave appropriately because “every financial institution is required to adopt policies stating its commitment to comply with AML/CFT obligations under the law and regulatory directives and to actively prevent any transaction that otherwise facilitates criminal activity or terrorism.”
“Every financial institution is requested to formulate and implement internal controls and other procedures that will deter criminals from using its facilities for money laundering and terrorist financing and to ensure that its obligations are always met.”