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Oro Provincial Govt raises concerns, BSP Bank branch Manager removed

Bank South Pacific Group General Manager (Retail) Paul Thornton was in Popondetta on Wednesday this week to address an unfriendly banking environment raised by the Oro Provincial Government over the years with the bank’s main provincial branch.

Mr Thornton met with Provincial Administrator Trevor Magei and his executive management who raised issues with the bank becoming unfriendly with their customers especially with Provincial Government cheques paid to service providers and other allowances.

The senior bank officer was accompanied by a new branch manager Samuel Okti and Billy Vegeloga Area Manager Southern Region.

While welcoming Mr Thornton to Oro, the Provincial Administrator admitted that the Oro Provincial Government had a ‘sour’ relationship with the bank for some time.

“Cheques printed from the Provincial Treasury to service providers and presented to the bank are not processed until after two or three days. Our cheque turn-around time takes weeks and months while the queries are not properly addressed,” he said.

He said queries are not genuinely addressed where the bank manager is obliged to call up the provincial administrator or other signatories of the cheques per the government’s financial management Act.

“The chief accounting officer is the Provincial Administrator who accounts for cheques drawn above K30,000 and I don’t get a call up from the bank to verify any of such cheques when presented to the bank. I am lost as to how the bank deals with these issues,” he said.

He said some of these service providers have been chased away to Port Moresby and other branches to do banking.

Provincial Revenue Manager John Pai also asked the bank why bank statements were taking months and years to provide to the provincial revenue office.

Mr Pai said under the new Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) Oro was among the first three provinces to implement the IFMS.

This meant that all funds including public service wages were drawn under only one account and to not have the bank statements on time was a nightmare.

“We need to know in real time how much money is being used under which programs so we could have our ledger in order,” he said.

Mr Pai said the IFMS was an electronic system that clears all fraud and money laundering cases before cheques are printed and BSP has added more burden on the provincial govt and its agents.

After listening in to the Provincial Executive Management team, Mr Thornton admitted that the Popondetta Branch had gone a little too far.

There are key legislation requirements imposed by the government and the Bank has to comply with those requirements.

However, he added that cheques should not remain in the bank for too long. If there are queries, cheques should be returned to the owner through a formal process.

“The Bank officers should confirm cheques over K30,000 with the Provincial Administrator who is the section 32 officer. We shouldn’t be asking too many questions if all the paper work from provincial treasury are in order. I do see unhappiness here and we will surely improve on that with the new Branch Manager taking office,” he said.

The branch manager has been replaced.

Pic caption: (BSP Group General Manager Paul Thornton middle with OPG executive Management and BSP Officers in Oro yesterday )

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