Thousands of bank account holders are facing financial ruin after they realised that their funds were depleted under mysterious circumstances.
Investigations by The Patriot on Sunday revealed that some bank account holders from banks such as Barclays, Standard Bank and others, got a rude awakening when they tried to access their funds, only to find that they are without a single thebe. This was despite that they knew they had money as their accounts balance statements had indicated so. In Selebi Phikwe, a man learnt to his utter shock that he could not pay for fuel to travel to Gaborone after filling his car to full capacity with petrol. After the embarrassing discovery he had to leave his car at the petrol station to go and seek funds to pay the petrol attendant. At the end, he decide to call Barclays Bank head office in Gaborone, who then helped him by giving him an overdraft, hence he was able to get the funds to pay off the debt. In Gantsi, a man who had just come from his farm, realised that he had no money to proceed with his trip out of Gantsi as the ATM machine screen showed him that he had not a single thebe to his name, despite having had thousands of Pula before he went to the farm.
In another incident, a woman was thrown out of a house she was renting because she could not pay her rental. She had money but when she got to the ATM machine, she realised that she was now penniless. There are so many stories of this nature.
Our investigations have revealed that there is a common thread in these cases. Those who realised their money has ‘disappeared’ had used First National Bank of Botswana’s Point of Sale (POS) machines while paying for purchasing goods and services at various shops and filling stations in Botswana.
The account holders, who even include FNB clients, have said that they have seen their accounts depleted of funds only to learn upon making enquiries that the funds have been used to pay for the purchases they made as far back as two months. Further investigations revealed that after purchasing goods and or services at a shop or filling station, the funds earmarked to go to the shops or filling station from the account holder, after swiping, took too long (more than the normal four days).
A local senior bank official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, explained that they realised that there was a problem when their clients came complaining that they have had their money disappearing, only to learn later that it was deducted as payment for old purchases, which they had long forgotten about.
“When you swipe at a POS machine, a message is sent to our system, saying you are buying goods at a particular place for a certain amount. Our system then responds and if there is money in your account, the transaction goes through. The value of the transaction is then earmarked in your account and would be deducted from your account to the bank, whose POS machine was used in four days or less. This happens after our system received communication or files from the other bank. However, in this case, we realised that the files from FNB were delayed in terms of getting back the earmarked funds. they could have told us that they are experiencing challenges, so that we could have alerted our clients in time. right now, a lot of our clients are in distress and seeking for answers from us,” revealed the source, who indicated that in their discussion with FNB, they were told that the matter has been resolved last week.
However, some clients insist that they are still experiencing similar problems, with some saying it happened this week Thursday.
The Patriot on Sunday has spoken to an official at FNB’s communication desk, who said she is called Kemiso, who said that she would need to talk to their POS department, before adding that they have issued a statement sometimes back, to say that the problem was being attended to. She has since requested for a questionnaire, which this writer has supplied, in which among others, The Patriot on Sunday sought to know what measures are in place or will be put in place to ensure that it does not happen again. The questionnaire also sought to know what plans the bank has, to help those who have already been affected, as some are experiencing extreme financial difficulties because they are now in debts having realised very late that they had spent money that they did not have, as it was the money that delayed being taken for the purchases made as far back as August.
By end of business on Friday, the bank had not responded as communications desk officers were said to be in meetings at the bank.