Mutilated Banknotes: Is There Any Solution In Sight?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

One issue that made headlines in yesterday’s newspapers was the issue raised by Maryland County Representative Bhafol Chambers, concerning the refusal of some banks in the country to accept mutilated banknotes, locally referred to as “Tear- Tear Money.” The issue of the refusal of some of these banks to accept these notes has been a matter of concern for years. Obviously because of the action of these banks, some business people who have savings or deposits with these banks are also refusing “tear-tear money’ on ground that there is no where to take them for deposit.

Because of the situation, at times those with the mutilated money have to trade them on discount with some local dealers in the streets, thereby losing some value of their banknotes. Apparently it is because of this that the lawmaker decided to draw the attention of the Legislature, which is the TRUSTEE of the people to this serious matter that is also affecting trade and commerce, as some individuals with such notes are hindered by this.

Prior to the lawmaker’s concern, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) ; which regulates the functions or activities of commercial banks; called on the banks to accept these kinds of notes.

Recently, an Executive of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Mr. Richard Walker says people with mutilated bank notes must always exchange said notes at its fixed value at various Commercial Banks and the CBL. Mr. Walker who is the CBL’s Director of Banking Services, responding to an INQUIRER inquiry relative to the proliferation of mutilated bank notes on the Liberian market said the CBL has issued a circular that is urging all Commercial Banks to exchange said notes at its fixed value.

However, it appears that the banks are ignoring the directive of the CBL by refusing to accept these mutilated banknotes. This is not the first time the CBL has frowned on such act, but it continues to persist.

Reporting the concern of the lawmaker, the FOCUS Newspaper yesterday, under the headline, “Circulation of Torn Monies Worries Lawmaker…Beseeches House Plenary to Cite Heads of all Commercial Banks”.“Heads of all commercial banks operating in Liberia may shortly appear before the National Legislature to address themselves to the ‘serious’ issue of mutilated monies or torn bills which are currently in circulation in the country.

“Dr. Bhofal Chambers, Maryland County Representative in the Lower House of the National Legislature has officially written the House Plenary which is the highest decision-making body to invite heads of all commercial banks operating in Liberia to address the issue of mutilated monies.

“Dr. Chambers noted that the issue of mutilated monies or torn bills is not only an economic but also a social problem as the refusal of these notes by the business community from the consuming public usually results into bitter arguments sometimes culminating into fist fights.

“In the letter, dated August 5, 2015, and addressed to House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, Representative Chambers pointed out that predicated upon the foregoing, it would be prudent were all the heads of commercial banking institutions to appear before Plenary to provide explanation on the issue which he termed as “serious”.

“According to the state-run Liberia News Agency, the Legislator believes the “settlement of this volatile socio-economic problem will definitely curtail the high tension between the consuming public and the business people”.

“Meanwhile, the House Plenary has turned the communication over to the body’s Standing Committee on Banking and Currency for review and recommendations after it was read in Session on Thursday. The Committee is mandated to report to Plenary within two weeks,” the story concluded.

Today, I share the concern of the lawmaker because this is something that has been existing for a very long time. Besides the issue of devaluing the “tear-tear money,’ this has also affected the purchasing power of people because it usually leads to reduction in the amount of money available to them, as these banknotes are removed from the total money available to them.

Interestingly, at times these mutilated banknotes at ties lead to serious confusion between buyers and sellers on ground that the money is still of value despite its appearance. Similarly, there have been instances of bitter exchanges, which at times result to fracas between commercial drivers and passengers, as drivers refuse to accept such notes, thus demanding non-mutilated notes which the passengers do not have.

This issue may not be seen as a topical one, but it is of concern, in that Liberia may be the country where people are refusing to trade in such notes. Many of the countries I have visited, including Ghana, Nigeria, there is no fuss over “tear-tear money.” But in this country, it is an issue because of the way and manner some of our people and commercial banks behave on this matter. From my experience, some of the notes in those countries are worst than some of the ones we refuse to trade with in Liberia.

It may interest you to know that this ugly behavior is creeping to the children, who when given money, with even a mark, always refuse to accept because market people will reject same.

Whatever the situation, the CBL MUST put its feet on the ground to curtail this ugly practice. It MUST prevail on commercial banks to ensure that “tear-tear money’ are not rejected, but be accepted for exchange with better ones. I Rest My Case.