Namibia records N$26,3m worth of fraud cases in banking sector

Maureen Hinda-Mbuende

Namibia has recorded a total of 357 fraud cases in 2023, which has led to losses amounting to N$26,3 million.

These results were revealed by finance and public enterprises deputy minister, Maureen Hinda-Mbuende during the presentation of the Bank of Namibia’s annual results in Windhoek on Tuesday.

Mbuende said this is of great concern.

“A total of 357 fraud cases were reported during 2023. The categories of fraud experienced by banking institutions in 2023 included ATM fraud, electronic fund transfers, credit and debit card fraud, mobile application fraud, and theft of cash amounting to N$27,2 million fraud incidents reported in 2023,” said Hinda-Mbuende.

She said the banking sector has recovered N$4,8 million of the losses.

“One is tempted to believe that these types of fraud have been flourishing on the back of both internal and external negligence of the stakeholders involved, hence the question remains: Are there relief measures or strategies in place to compensate for the N$26,3 million on the part of the individual clients?” Hinda-Mbuende said.

She said preliminary estimates from United Nation (UN) studies reveal the issue of inward illicit financial flows of N$19,6 billion and outward illicit financial flows of $4,7 billion between 2018 and 2020.

Hinda-Mbuende said there is a need for concerted efforts to curb such flows and bolster cybersecurity defences to safeguard the integrity of the financial system.

Central bank spokesperson Kazembire Zemburuka said despite the slow economic growth, the banking sector has remained profitable.

“The banking sector’s profitability remained solid due to higher net income, particularly interest income. Asset quality, as measured by the non-performing loans ratio, deteriorated slightly in 2023, but remained below the crisis time supervision intervention trigger point,” Zemburuka said.

According to the annual report, the banking sector recorded an income of N$ 12,8 billion, while net income after tax increased by 24,5 % to N$3,7 billion.

This growth is mainly due to the Bank of Namibia raising interest rates in 2022 and early 2023.

When interest rates go up, banks can charge more on loans, which translates to higher profits.

“Going forward, the risks to the banking sector are centred around the impact of climate change, greylisting, and cybersecurity,” said Zemburuka.

Despite the economic challenges, people and businesses continued to seek out products and services offered by non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs), as investments managed by NBFIs performed positively in 2023.

However, Hinda-Mbuende warned against the central bank raising interest rates, saying this may lead to borrowers defaulting on loans, especially with mortgages which accounted for more than half of the total private sector credit extension.

She said because a large portion of the commercial banks’ loans are mortgages, Namibian banks are considered to be highly exposed to mortgage risk.

This means if many borrowers default on their mortgages, the banks could suffer significant losses.

“The credit risk remains a key financial risk factor, while the banking sector continues to record higher profitability levels. Non-performing loans have increased by N$456 million to N$6,5 billion, and more than 50% of this increase is for the mortgage loan category,” said Hinda-Mbuende.

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News