When banks ask useless questions about my money

As a young man in the early 90s, my best friend then got a job as a teller in a bank.

One fine morning an elderly citizen clad in a shuka walked in to deposit a large sum of money (by the standards then). It was at least forty thousand bob.

The mzee then sat on a bench nearby to count what had remained in his personal coffers. It was customary then for tellers to have cash on the counter, for easy transactions, I guess.

It so happened that another customer came to withdraw cash, and our mzee saw the same cash he had deposited being dished out to another man.

He immediately rose and protested at what he saw as blatant theft of his money by the bank. If the bank so wished, he argued, it could dish out its own money, and not what he had brought in for safe custody.

Under the mattress

To please the old man, the teller had to reach out for other cash, which left the mzee satisfied that his cash was safe. All’s well that ends well.

Fast forward to the month of September last year and I was making a deposit of Sh300,000 for the purchase of a car.

As I was filling in the online form, I came across a section that required me to say what the cash transfer was for. Holy Moses!

At first, my instinct was to wonder why the bank should be worried about what I wanted to do with my money.

Heck, do I ask the bank what it does with its cash?

I still filled in the reason for the transaction. I figured maybe it’s a way of maintaining surveillance on money laundering. Fine, I told myself.

I was in the mood for asking questions. I asked myself: What if I had kept the money under my mattress? I know moth would corrupt it, as the Bible says, but it’s my cash, right? I mean, even if I wanted to fritter it away like the prodigal son did, it’s my money?

Under the mattress

Fast-forward to the events of the last few days, in which we have come to learn that you can have cash from sources no one knows put into your bank account.

No one will ask a question.

You can show up at the bank doors one fine sunny morning, maybe the next day, grin at the security guys at the door, put the money into a gunny bag and walk away whistling a happy tune.

That is regardless of whether its Sh400,000, two, three million, ten million, even sixty million. Yes, it has happened, so why can’t I do it?

In other words, why did my bank ask me why I was transferring Sh300,000 to another account, yet somebody else could withdraw Sh59 million in one day?

Or was the teller preoccupied with the individual’s looks. That is a story for another day.

I would like the Governor of Central Bank of Kenya (Is the CBK the same as a county or why this title?) or indeed my bank manager to explain to me as if I was a four-year-old, just why I cannot withdraw any huge amount of cash from my account any time I deem fit, with or without an explanation.

Or maybe, just maybe, I should keep my cash under my mattress. Don’t tell anyone, though.

Flavoured air

I mean its very simple: We have just learnt that folks could open bank accounts, create dud companies, and be paid millions, withdrawn immediately, for supplying air. Never has air cost so much! Or is it flavoured air?

Of course, enterprising Kenyans on social media have gone to town, asking that all those who sell mandazi with lots of air inside be probed.

Writer Ted Malanda started it, saying he frequently buys mandazi but is startled to find more air than substance.

And there are pictures, too, of that sort of mandazi you bite and the inside is like a crater.

Other wags have crawled out of the woodwork, saying some hotels get away with murder, selling a few sticks of potato chips at Sh400 and a measly teacup (the type you empty in one swig!) at Sh250.

The writer is the special projects editor, People Daily

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