Government moves to counter Paynet’s ‘extortion’

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By Alois Vinga

GOVERNMENT and its key stakeholders are working to come up with an alternative platform to facilitate electronic transfers after the financial system’s row with Paynet that saw banks frozen out last month.

Speaking to Business Wednesday, Finance Ministry accountant general, Daniel Muchemwa indicated there has been progress and a new platform may be in place before civil servants are paid this month.

Paynet announced that transfers were not going to be processed without giving us due notice. They were demanding payment in foreign currency for their services but I vowed that we were not going to meet such a demand.

“In June we had to use the manual payment system to process salaries as we had no option considering that Paynet, as the major service provider, failed to respect us as clients,” said Muchemwa, adding that government has since racked how the Paynet system works.

“We agreed that all they were providing was technology. So our team managed to craft a system which will be interfaced with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and, moving forward, it will be cheaper.”

Recently, local banks also announced that they are working towards the funding and development of a system to be known as Bank File Interchange System (BFIS) to be placed under the control of the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe.

Government last month encountered problems after Paynet withdrew its services demanding payment in hard currency leaving civil servants struggling to access their salaries. Some private firms that relied on Paynet also struggled to process workers’ salaries.

Most Zimbabwean banks use Paynet, which is owned by Mauritian financial services provider Payserv Africa, to process interbank transactions.

As part of the arrangement, the local banks are supposed to pay the service provider in US$. But a standoff between banks and Paynet has resulted in service disruption.

Locally, Paynet enjoyed a customer base of 5 800 corporate clients and 2.5 million beneficiaries and its suspension affected salary payments for over half a million workers including pensioners who endured delays.