CESTOS, River Cess – Since the new banknotes issued by the Central Bank of Liberia came into circulation in October of last year, residents of River Cess have continued to struggle with mutilated notes.
The bank has ostensibly distributed the notes to replace mutilated and damaged notes in addition to improving security features to reduce counterfeiting. But those benefits have not reached River Cess citizens.
Recently, several civil servants who went to receive their salaries at the River Cess Bank expressed disappointment in the bank for giving them mutilated banknotes.
David Thompson, a classroom teacher, said because of the condition of the notes, he prefers leaving the money at the bank rather than taking it home.
“It is better for me to leave the money here than for me to carry it home because everything is rotten,” Thompson said. “We are suffering because [there is] only one bank here. If there were more banks here, [the bankers] would not be treating us like this.”
Another woman who only disclosed her first name said since the introduction of the new banknotes, she has not received any from the bank.
“Anytime we come here for pay, they always gave us [torn] money,” Esther said. “Today is even worse because all the money is spoiled.”
At the bank, some tellers were observed leaving their windows for extended periods of time, making the customers wait in line. The manager of the bank, John Teah, said it was necessary for tellers to do this because “the tellers have to go and pick among the money before paying the people.”
The River Cess Bank, a sub-branch of Afriland Bank, is the only banking institution in the county through which the Government of Liberia pays all civil servants.
An employee of the bank who spoke on condition of anonymity said the bank has some of the new notes but they tend to run out because they use the better notes to pay out salary advances to some civil servants.
“This salary advance thing is what is causing the problem here, ” the employee said. “Sometimes people come here for two to three months’ salary advance – that other people’s money.”
But that explanation does not explain why the bank could not just ask the Central Bank for replacement of its tattered notes. Teah, the manager, remained tight-lipped on what is responsible for the mutilated banknotes but he did suggest that the issue had more to do with security concerns around transferring large sums of money between Monrovia and River Cess.
The bank, according to the manager, does not have adequate services to escort larger sums of money, therefore it only transports smaller amounts, resulting in the scarcity of new notes.
Featured photo by Eric Doue