The Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers, ZUFIAW has challenged government and the Central Bank to say the truth about the status of Intermarket Bank for the sake of employees and depositors.

And ZUFIAW has observed that the rate at which people default on their loan repayments was not improving because there was an information gap about the existence of the Credit Reference Bureau and its mandate.

In a statement, ZUFIAW president Ackim Mweemba wondered what was keeping Intermarket Bank closed after the numerous assurances from finance Minister Felix Mutati.

“We would like to air our concerns on the status of Intermarket Banking Corporation. Since the bank was closed in November 2016, the nation has been treated to several assurances from the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Zambia that the institution was going to be re-opened within a short time. However, it is now close to a year since the bank closure but there are still no visible signs that these assurances are going to materialise,” Mweemba observed.

“ZUFIAW has on several occasions appealed to authorities to give a definite timeframe within which the bank shall be re-opened, but to no avail. We therefore reiterate our appeal to the authorities to open the bank without delay for the good of the workers, customers and the general public. Intermarket Banking Corporation still holds money belonging to workers in form of accrued benefits and depositors. Therefore, we believe that it is their right to have the right information about the status of the institution and when they shall be able to access their funds.”

And Mweemba expressed concern that commercial banks were being impacted by people’s failure to service their loans.

“ZUFIAW is appalled by revelations from the Bank of Zambia that incidences of non-performing loans were still very high in the country. As a financial sector trade Union, we were optimistic that since the introduction of licensing for Credit Reference Services by the Bank of Zambia in 2006 which led to the establishment of Credit Reference Bureau (CRB), there would be a marked improvement in honouring loan obligations by borrowers in view of the possibility of being blacklisted from obtaining any further credit from any financial institution in the event of one defaulting on previous obligations,” he said.

“Whilst we are saddened by this development, we are however compelled to believe that there must be a big information gap about the existence of the CRB. In this regard, we are calling on CRB and the central bank to embark on a public sensitisation programme to ensure that people understand about the implications of defaulting on their loan obligations.”

He said the culture of non-repayment of loans was inimical to the growth of the financing sector.

“We are cognisant of the fact that the financial system should be credible, effective and efficient, and non-performing loans are inimical to that. But as a country we need to remind ourselves that one of the reasons the Central Bank introduced credit referencing was to curb the culture of not paying back loans. However, now that it is apparent that the trend has barely improved and crippling the operations of commercial banks, it means a lot more, other than mere introduction of credit referencing need to be done. We are confident that once the public is fully sensitised, the desired change shall be attained,” said Mweemba.