Africa-Press – Lesotho. Standard Lesotho Bank (SBL) has reacted to the recently published report of the Auditor-General (AG) that the bank has failed to pay the dividends to the government in 2020/2021 financial.
The bank says their non-payment of the dividends was its adherence to the directive issued by their regulator, the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) which it made in 2020 that the banks should not pay dividends; the move which the bank made to cushion the banking sector against liquidity.
This the bank said during the press conference in Maseru last week. SBL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Anton Nicolaisen said the bank is not a state-owned entity or a parastatal, but a public limited company that is owned by the shareholders being the Standard Bank Group, Lesotho Unit Trust and the Government of Lesotho.
“Standard Lesotho Bank is aware of the recently released Auditor General’s report on the status of Government accounts for 2020/2021, where the report states that Standard Lesotho Bank is amongst the list of state-owned enterprises that have not paid dividends to the Government of Lesotho.
“With regards to the payment of dividends, for 2020/2021 fiscal year, the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) issued a directive to all commercial banks in Lesotho including Standard Lesotho Bank not to pay dividends in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and in anticipation of its negative impact on the economy.
This was intended to ensure that liquidity and capital positions in the banking system remain stable with adequate capacity to absorb potential losses that could be anticipated due to the economic downturn of which at the time, its length and depth were unknown.
Titled an Audit Report on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of Lesotho for the Year ended 31st March 2021 the AG report reads: “Dividends represent cash received by Government during the year on profits declared by the enterprises to their shareholders for the previous years’ performance.
“In my last year’s report, I expressed my dissatisfaction on monitoring of dividends receivable by the Government. The situation has not improved as out of 15 entities, only two entities paid dividends totaling M238 million…”
Flanked by the bank’s Head of Finance and Value Management Mokhejane ‘Moleli, Head of Legal and Governance Pheta Setlojoane and Head of Brand and Advertising ‘Mamoabi Phori, Nicolaisen further mentioned that they responded to the CBL April 30 directive not to pay dividends.
The government holds 9.6 percent shareholding at SBL. ‘Moleli maintained that SBL has always been paying its dividends to all its shareholders including the government. The CEO added: “The bank was directed not pay dividends to “all” its shareholders”.