Risk Watch with Alberta QUARCOOPOME: The risk of accepting “gifts”


… today, it is our leaders. tomorrow, it could be me or you!

“If you see that someone’s beard is on fire, fetch water and put it beside you” — Akan Proverb

A Period for Sober Reflections

I am writing this article with a heavy heart because it is time for us human beings to make sober reflections and think again. In the bible, Jesus told the crowd which was going to stone a woman that anyone of them who has not sinned should cast the first stone. What happened? All the woman’s accusers left the stones and walked sheepishly away. The numerous “exposes” of judges, politicians, heads of government institutions, schools, allegedly taking bribes to alter data, judgements, etc in favour of criminals is only one of the numerous “exposes” that investigative journalists have undertaken in the past.

Our Upbringing and Socialization process.

As human beings, we are all born into families where religious and societal norms are inculcated into us. As we get into the educational sector, we start bonding with other persons from various cultures, backgrounds and races. We learn and adapt to various groups of people and socialize with them. After school, we sometimes inter-marry and have children of “mixed blood”. We also work in institutions made up of people from all walks of life.

With the globalization of the world, many of us belong to various associations. Name them – the church organizations, the old students’ associations, lodges, fellowships, youth groups, professional bodies, sports associations as well as office groupings.

Our Culture of Appreciation

We have an African culture where we express appreciation by giving gifts. We say thank you to people whom we transact business with, and offer gifts to them for doing what they are paid to do. We give gifts even to say “Akwaaba” or welcome. In our eagerness to avoid being labelled rude persons, we sometimes accept certain “appreciation” items without thinking of any ulterior motives about the giver.

The Transition from a Gift to a Bribe

I am obviously not a lawyer and I have no intention of going near that subject. It is during this period of sober reflection that we should take a hard look at how one can get so used to receiving tips that the transition into demanding bribes becomes easy. There are many people who, after receiving tips for a long time, start believing that it is their right. When that happens, they become easily influenced into doing unethical things, which eventually become their norm.

The Code of Banking Practice

As a banker, I am more comfortable talking about my industry. Whenever I facilitate programs on fraud and ethics, I always crack a joke with the participants, saying that, “I can teach you how to steal from every desk in banking, but the only thing that will stop you is the honesty factor”. Many professional bodies have codes of ethics which guides professionals in the execution of their duties.

The Whistle Blower becomes an Outcast

Many financial institutions have whistle blower policies, sometimes elaborately launched with much fun-fair but afterwards, what do we see?  What happens to whistle blowers after they report any financial malfeasance? They become outcasts in their own workplaces. It is because they do not flow with the tide, they are not easily influenced, they are perfectionists, and are seen as dangerous persons to be associated with.

The Dilemma of Bankers

Let us take our cameras around the banks. In some places there are certain activities                                                                                                                                                                                                                               associated with “thank you” or “appreciation”. This is witnessed when customers give a dash to staff for doing what they are paid to do. When the “dash’ gets bigger, it sets one start wondering what on earth one is doing for the customer to  be “dashed” that money. One has to be aware that it is a gradual process of enticement by the customer, in his mission to catch the big fish. What is the big fish? Getting you not to say no to some unethical acts! Here are few examples:

  • A new branch manager who assumes duty in a small town is visited by several delegations, made up of market queens, assembly man, chief farmer or fisherman, or opinion leader. They sometimes leave behind a trail of “thank you”s or welcomes in the form of yam, fowl, snails, cassava, etc. If this manager returns the items, he will become an outcast for good, and will be chastised by being called “too known” for his “abrofusem”. To receive or not to receive? That is the question. Three months later, these visitors or customers will bring their loan requests to him, expecting favourable considerations. Our culture, if strictly applied, does not make things easy.
  • A Security guard allows a customer to park at the wrong parking lot, expecting a dash when the customer is leaving. Such a person can easily give confidential information to wrong persons.
  • A Remittance Teller who regularly receives tips from customers will be tempted to deliberately pay money to the wrong beneficiary to get a kick-back.
  • A bank manager can deliberately delay a customer’s loan request in order to get a “weight” on the application.
  • The loans officer who accepts a gift from a loan applicant in order to massage the information and get an approval can cause defaults in repayment and losses to the bank.
  • Look at the Human Resource department. The temptation there is great and if one is not morally upright, one can be tempted with bribes or sexual favours, for consideration of job requests.
  • The Procurement Department is another hot seat. One can be approached by several unscrupulous persons to skew a tender in their favour or purchase shoddy goods for the institution.
  • As for stationery, don’t we print a few unofficial things at the office? Oh. Did I not give my official pen to my child to take to school? Did I not use some A4 paper for my private things? We may say that “After all, is it not common paper”?
  • What about a visiting loan recovery officer’s car boot being filled with goodies from the defaulting customer’s farm or shop?

It is not easy at all. Where is the CCTV or camera lens fixed? Is it not just the banking hall? What happens in the closed offices is unseen by anybody except our God.

So you see, it is not easy being a human being in this global village. Let’s look at some general situations:

  • Look at the Old students associations. They are a powerful tool of influence.
  • What about the secret societies? It is alleged that if you have a member in front of you in a case, you should never rule against him or her!!
  • Even our clans and tribal expectations. How do you turn away a kinsman who needs a job? Some people are unable to visit their hometowns for fear of such influences and pressures from the family.
  • Look at the delegations from the village that visit the “big men” in high places. Don’t they carry lots of goodies to them? What about the cars of visiting big men being filled with farm goodies? What can they do? Do they refuse these things described as “only food”? Who refuses “food” in our culture?

My Final Thoughts

This article is in no way a defence of unethical acts in the society. The laws of the land must take its natural cause when unethical acts are reported. Is it possible to clearly distinguish between gifts, appetizers, bribes and “thank you”? Why should anyone give you anything? At best, we should strive to avoid being associated with any of these things. It is a very sensitive issue, but the earlier we deliberate on these things in our Ghanaian context the better. The best thing to do is that we must strive not to take anything from anybody because we don’t know what is following that small “something”. If we have CCTVs around us anywhere we go, we can imagine the “sights and sounds” that will be seen and heard! If the cap fits, please wear it because I am also wearing mine. Let us all resolve not to fall into any of these categories. Never again. Fellow Ghanaians, it is time for sober reflections.

I wish you a reflective and spirit filled week.



Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or [email protected]

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343


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