Bullion-van ‘Deception’


My deep condolences to the family of the police officer and the lady who fell victim to the fatal daylight robbery incident in Accra on 14th June 2021, involving a ‘bullion-van’ carrying cash for a bank. The sad part about the whole thing is the recurrence of the same problem with complete inertia on the part of all key players who are endowed with the power to act.

Over eight years ago, the write-up below was put out to draw attention from the Bank of Ghana, Ghana Police Service, Bankers Association of Bankers, National Insurance Commission, National Security Ministry and the individual banks – but we have sat down for the same incident to happen again and precious human lives have been lost. I hereby reproduce the same write-up in the hope policymakers, Risk Officers of banks and insurance companies will find it worth reading and take a piece of advice from it.

“Most cash vans, popularly known as ‘bullion vans’ in Ghana are sub-standard and the risks that the players in the financial sector, banks, insurers, service providers and policemen and women are exposed to are not worth it at all. It involves human life, depositors’ money and property. The qualities and minimum specifications for a bullion van are not met.

The problem is whether the Bank of Ghana has regulations on standards or specifications for banks and carriers of specie from one place to another. What about Ghana Police Service, the National Security, and the National Insurance Commission?

The practice, on the contrary, has been that the banks have ignored these standards and specifications they ought to know and resorted to procurement of substandard ones to transport specie or outsourced to carriers who also do not have better vehicles. They procure ordinary pick-ups and convert the buckets into cash compartment with ordinary aluminum steel on the bucket with easily breakable locking systems and hanging padlocks.

The incident that happened at Circle in Accra in front of Vodafone office on 16th March 2012, where a “bullion van” of a bank was involved in an accident and had its door opened for passers-by to scramble for the cash at the expense of their lives is a wakeup call to the regulator, the Bank of Ghana, the Banks themselves, Insurance companies, the National Insurance Commission, the Ghana Police Service and the National Security outfit.

We are not aware of any certification of the quality of ‘bullion vans’ used by banks in this country. The Bank of Ghana should take immediate steps to certify the vehicles that could be used as cash vans because no one knows when and where the next one may occur.

The financial sector has only one asset, the public confidence, which must be protected at all costs to ensure financial stability of the nation. Any negative effect from the actions and inactions of the stakeholders must be monitored and addressed.

What is in vogue among the management of the banks is outsourcing of the cash/specie movement services, ostensibly to cut costs of operations. It could be true that the outsourcing may reduce the costs of running those services like the cost of staff employed to perform those services and the acquisition and maintenance costs of those vehicles.

However, other costs and risks may have far reaching consequences. The outsourcing craze and its associated risks including disruptions in operations, waste of time and cost of investigations, reputational risks, and higher insurance premiums after the incident, and most especially, human lives that may be at stake, be they pedestrians, who may to rush for money for oncoming vehicles to run over them or police and bank staff who may suffer injury or even death.

The profitability and cost cutting motive of the service providers/carriers may even increase the risk exposure to the banks. They may hold the view that, after all, the cash and the vehicle are insured by the bank or themselves. Some of such drivers are also poorly paid and the risks of that are too obvious, not to mention possible collusion with robbers.

The insurance companies also hardly insist on the quality and robustness of the means of transport for the species. The unhealthy competition among the insurance companies compels them to ignore some of those key issues that exposes them the more. They invoke some clauses when it is time for claims to address some of the concerns that could have been avoided from the onset. The National Insurance Commission could get involved as the confidence of the prospective ‘insureds’ could be affected.

The occurrence of such incidents could affect the security of people and therefore the National Security outfit should be interested. If robbers form the opinion that attacking ‘bullion vans’ and getting access to the cash is so easy, then they may be emboldened to embark on such attacks. This is indeed a national security issue.

The Ghana Police Service put their staff in such vehicles, thereby exposing them to huge risk of attack without bullet-proof vests. In an article in the Vanguard in 2010 titled “Robbery Attack on Bullion Vans-Police to Clamp Down on Erring Banks Soon”, the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Aloysius Okorie was said to have taken the bull by the horn by instructing all banks in the state to bring their armoured bullion vans to the state police headquarters, Owerri. At the meeting, they tested the bullet-proofing capacities of the vehicles. Out of the five, only one passed the test and the four that failed were impounded. Do we have that here or we wait for the robbers to strike?

In that article, the following statement was made to show the extent of seriousness of the police in Nigeria. “The Inspector-General of Police therefore directs all Commissioners of Police and Police Mobile Force Commanders not to honour request for Specie Escort from any bank that failed to procure the ideal bullion van duly certified as meeting the ideal specification by experts.”

In conclusion, a more robust specification (bullet/fire proof vans with secured locking systems) in line with international standard and best practice and effective risk management principles should be instituted by the Bank of Ghana, in collaboration with the other stakeholders mentioned earlier, for all the banks and financial institutions, as well as providers of specie carriers services to the banks to comply.

The insurance companies must have standards to be met by the banks and carriers of species. The National Insurance Commission should enforce this. The National Security outfit should also be involved in enforcing standards. The Ghana Police Service, who provides escort services to the banks must insist on standards that will minimize the risk they expose the lives of the policemen and women to.

Prevention is better than cure and a stitch in time saves nine”.

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