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MD’S DEATH EXPOSES BUILDING SOCIETY’S PROBLEMS

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MBABANE – Tim Nhleko, the Managing Director of Swaziland Building Society (SBS) who was laid to rest yesterday, leaves behind an institution that is reportedly troubled.


The challenges are so serious that the Marketing Manager, Veli Dlamini, said the information on the Society’s operations had been leaked to not only damage the reputation of the institution but to also spite senior management of the organisation, especially at a traumatic time of the loss of their managing director.
He urged the Times SUNDAY not to publish this article and said if the story goes ahead despite such advice, the Society reserved the legal right to institute legal proceedings for defamation.


He said he hoped this would not be necessary.  
He said issues of the Society remained confidential between the institution and its employees.
Top of the ladder of the institution’s challenges is the exodus of senior management and the resignation of a high-profile board member, allegedly because they did not see eye-to-eye with Nhleko.


Among those who left under Nhleko’s leadership was Elizabeth Busisiwe Arden, who held the position of General Manager for four years from 2012 to 2016.
She assumed the position from Nhleko when the latter was appointed MD following the early retirement of Joseph Ndlangamandla.


Impeccable sources within the Society said Arden was the one earmarked to succeed Nhleko in the position of Managing Director.
“When Nhleko was appointed MD in 2012, he was already 59 years old so it was anticipated that he would retire at the age of 60 and Arden would take over. That was the initial plan,” said one of the highly-placed sources.


However, when he reached 60, Nhleko is said to have been given a five-year contract, something that caused rumbling among employees of the institution because it was generally known that everyone was to leave upon reaching the retirement age.
“When Arden was recruited from SwaziBank (now EswatiniBank) the plan was that she would understudy Nhleko for a year and then take over the MD’s position but that did not happen.”

CONTRACT


Arden is said to have resigned in 2016, with Nhleko still left with two years on his contract.
In 2018, Nhleko was given a further three-year contract, which again caused uproar among employees such that the Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (SUFIAW) wrote to Board Chairman Kenneth Mbuli asking for urgent talks.


Already, on April 11, 2017, SUFIAW had written to Mbuli asking for engagement on a review of the retirement age.
“We have been approached by our members on the above matter and they advised that they have noted with concern the Society’s uneven approach to retirement age. They have noted that while they had assumed that perhaps the inconsistent retirement age was a result of the fixed-term contract, this does not seem to be the case as all other senior managers vacate office at the age of 60 years, but that does not seem universal,” the union wrote.


The union informed the board chairman that in view of the current state of affairs, they were demanding a review of the retirement age from 60 to 65 so as to avoid one policy for some employees and another for others.

RETIRE


Nhleko was expected to retire next year.
Besides Arden, other managers who quit under Nhleko’s leadership include Asakhe House Branch Manager Michael Mbetse, who has since joined the newly-launched Status Capital Building Society where he holds the position of General Manager.
Mbetse resigned in May 2020.


Mortgage Manager Jabulani Manana and Manager Short-Term Business M.Y Manana are two others who recently left SBS.
There are also unconfirmed reports that one senior manager who was recently recruited has also left the institution.  


There is then the resignation of Winston Lomahoza – the Board Vice Chairman who has also held the position of Chairman for quite some time.
The impeccable sources said what was most concerning with Lomahoza’s resignation was that he even withdrew his investments with the institution.
“We don’t know what could have informed this decision but it has greatly been of concern to us,” said one of the sources.
Dlamini, the Marketing Manager, refused to call the resignation of the senior managers an ‘exodus’.


“Like any organisation, some of the managers mentioned above (without mentioning their names) resigned on their own accord, others had their contracts expiring and one of them is still with SBS,” he said


He stated that their departure had not affected the operations of SBS as they have since been replaced by other experienced managers.
On the other hand, the board chairman, responding on the resignation of Lomahoza, said he did not have mandate from him to disclose the reasons for his decision to quit and the withdrawal of his investments.


“Further, these matters are between him and the board and they are confidential,” Mbuli said.

CHALLENGES
Second on the list of challenges facing SBS is the decision to install a new banking system, which was launched in October last year.
The system, which is known as Intellect and was reportedly procured from India, has been a headache to the operations of the Society.


According to the highly-reliable sources, the system has not been friendly to the local environment and was causing a number of challenges for customers, especially with regard to bank balances and stop orders.


“Management decided to carry out a total overhaul of the banking system and disregarded advice to gradually introduce Intellect by allowing it to function alongside the old system until it was fully understood by everyone,” said another of the sources.
They said compounding the situation was the resignation of the senior managers who were supposed to be the ones teaching those below them how to operate it.
Dlamini confirmed the implementation of the new system and said ‘like all systems there are teething problems which have since been resolved’.

DENIED
He denied the reports that customers’ bank accounts and stop orders had been affected by the new system.
“Before the rollout, the system was subjected to high-level scrutiny by all regulatory bodies, such as the Central Bank, to ensure that customer accounts and information were protected,” he said.
He then issued a veiled threat to the Times SUNDAY: “We further wish to advise that the system information is privileged and classified and any person – including yourselves – who leak any information in respect of the SBS system may compromise the Society and customer confidential information and may accordingly be prosecuted.
“The nature of the confidentiality inherent in the banking sector cannot be underscored enough, even in the present circumstance.”
Asked about the cost of the system, Dlamini said such information remained confidential not only to SBS and its members but also to the general banking sector in the country.
He said the reason for SBS to change the system was that over the passage of time all systems become obsolete and organisations accordingly become obligated to change to modern systems that enhance efficiencies.
He said system changes were necessary in the business environment.
“SBS is one such entity that has conformed to the dictates and changed working environment,” he said.
The third challenge facing SBS is the delayed release of the institution’s financials for the year ended March 31, 2020. Sources alleged that this was more than a delay but an actual failure that has been caused mainly by the failure to master the Intellect banking system.
“As we talk, PricewaterhouseCoopers is busy with the auditing and we are eagerly await the report,” said one of the sources.

FAILED
Again, Dlamini refuted that the institution had failed to release the results and blamed the delay on the COVID-19, further mentioning that an external audit was still ongoing.
He said financial results are released once the external audit is completed and the annual financials approved.
“We are all aware that audit commenced during the covid-19 lockdown and auditors have been working remotely. These supervening elements have been communicated to both our regulators and relevant stakeholders,” he said.
He said the audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers was being conducted for and on behalf of SBS and upon finalisation PwC ‘will report only to SBS’. “The management of the Society will not interfere with such a crucial and painstaking process,” Dlamini said. Mbuli, the Board chairman, asked that responses regarding the financials be responded to by management.

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