By Sami Zaptia.
London, 19 July 2016:
Sahary (Sahara) bank, one of Libya’s main state-owned high street banks, responded to the huge number of complaints by its customers on Tuesday due to poor service and the lack of a number of banking services, including the availability of cash, that it has been unable to offer over the last few months.
The bank had witnessed large queues and crowds of customers at its branches unsuccessfully attempting to withdraw cash out of their accounts.
In its statement, it assured its customers that services were on their way to improving as a result of newly introduced measures.
The bank said that the main reason for the poor service and stopping of some banking services was due to its old computer system. It said that the computer system that it was operating was actually owned by its ‘‘foreign strategic partner BNP-Paribas’’.
Sahary went on to reveal that it has now created and introduced a new computer system that it owns and which will be operational by August. It said that the new system will enable the operation of all the usual banking services such as the various debit/ATM cards, SMS services as well as some new services.
Creating and installing a new computer system was the only viable solution going forward, the bank explained. Sahary bank said that it believes that the new system is a good system facilitating customer service. It said there are ‘‘some quarters’’ who oppose the progress of the bank after it had overcome its difficulty and started making progress in its services to customers
It stressed that the bank has a good network of branches and a good infrastructure as well as a good management structure.
With regards to the new computer system, the bank refuted social media rumours of a LD 5 million corruption case as a result of the new contract for computer operating system. It pointed out that the contract was actually for only LD 2.5 million.
It also refuted the rumour that the Sahary bank Operations Manager had formed a committee to investigate a member of the board accused of the alleged fraud. It pointed out that it is not possible that an Operations Manager can form an investigating committee into a board member due to the bank’s internal hierarchy and authority system.
Only the chairman of the board has the authority to set up such an investigative committee into a board member.
Finally, with regards to the new computer system contract, the bank said that the names accused in social media had no connection with the signing of the contract for the new operating computer system.
On the matter of the cash crisis at its branches, the bank was forced to refute accusations that one of its largest customers, state-owned Libyana Mobile Company, had refrained from depositing its cash-takings into its Sahary bank account.
The bank said that Libyana had in fact ‘‘made huge cash deposits into its Sahary bank account’’ which Sahary said ‘‘had played a large part in solving the present cash crisis that all the commercial banks were going through’’.
Sahary went on to reveal that Libyana had deposited more than LD 91 million in cash from 1st January 2016 until 19th July 2016. It added that the cash crisis was a ‘’general crisis’’ and that commercial banks are not directly responsible for it,
It will be recalled that the bank had announced that it was to close all of its Libya-wide branches in June after militias kidnapped its staff investigating a bank heist. The staff were all subsequently released and the bank continued to open for business as usual.
It will be recalled that French bank BNP-Paribas had made a 19 percent Euro 145 million strategic acquisition in Sahara bank in 2007. The investment gave it total management control. It was the first foreign bank investment in post-Qaddafi Libya which had come as part of Saif Qaddafi’s reform effort.
Sahara has 1,500 employees, 48 Libya-wide branches and over 300,000 customers. It says it has 17 percent of loans and 22 percent of deposits in the Libyan banking sector.
Since the 2011 revolution, BNP-Paribas was forced to withdraw its French management team with no announcement of a return date.