Banks instructed to clear pending vigilance cases against officials, says Nirmala Sitharaman

KR Srivats New Delhi | Updated on December 28, 2019

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during a review meeting with chief executive officers of public sector banks (PSBs) in New Delhi, Saturday, December 28, 2019.   -  PTI

FM moves to assuage bankers’ concerns, improve their confidence

The Government on Saturday brought together the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Public Sector Banks’ chief executives on the same platform as part of an effort to address the concerns, which are stopping bankers from taking bonafide credit decisions.

At a review meeting with PSBs chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, it was also decided that CBI would in the coming days hold meetings and workshops with bank officials at the general manager level and vigilance officers to sensitise them about the practices adopted by the investigation agency.

“Some of the misgivings the bankers had in their minds have been explained by the CBI director himself. In the coming days CBI together with banks will have detailed discussions and workshops so that they (CBI) can explain”, Sitharaman told reporters after the review meeting here.

Going forward, the finance minister also plans to bring the enforcement directorate, income tax department, customs and DRI officials before the bank chiefs so that the bankers’ concerns are thrashed out and economic activity is not stifled by absence of credit decision making.

The latest Government move is significant as it is widely believed that the current economic slowdown—Indian GDP recorded lowest quarterly growth in six years of 4.5 per cent in Q2—is both an outcome of demand slowdown and bankers’ reluctance to make credit decisions owing to fear of the 3Cs—CBI, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

Sitharaman also asserted that no case around a bank employee’s culpability goes to CBI without an internal committee of the bank looking at it and recommending it to the RBI and then passing it on to the investigative agency.

“No case whatsoever involving the banks goes to the CBI without the banks themselves sending it to CBI. There is no suo-moto case which CBI takes against a bank. Let us be clear on this”, she added.

Cases which get referred to CBI pass through the institutional mechanism prevailing in a bank and it is only through that mechanism it comes to CBI.

Pending vigilance cases

Sitharaman also directed the PSBs to form committees at the level of general managers to look into all pending vigilance cases against employees and take a call as to whether they should be pursued or closed.

The Committee of general managers will be empowered to take this decision and the aim is to ensure that such cases do not remain unattended for years, causing anguish to employees, she said.

“There have been instances where the employees concerned would have retired and gone away. Due justice is not done for anybody involved in such cases that remain unattended”, Sitharaman added.

At today’s meeting, CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla is understood to have brought to the attention of the Finance Minister that over several years, there has been an accumulation of vigilance cases within the banks which they(banks) have to take a call on. “They (banks) have kept it as it is without closing them or taking any action”, she said.

Sitharaman also directed banks not to sit on cases involving the employee which could be handled through departmental actions itself. “If they (banks)are not doing it, they should now do it where possible”, she said.

Digital payments

At today’s review meeting, the Finance Minister also looked at steps being taken for enhancing digital transactions.

A budget announcement of exempting certain modes of digital payments from Merchant Discount Rate(MDR)  will be implemented from January 1.

The relevant notification will be issued by the revenue department. Come January 1, all transactions done by customers through Rupay and UPI (QR code) will not attract merchant discount rate. Also, business establishments with annual turnover of over Rs 50 crore will have to mandatorily from January 1 provide the facility of payment through RuPay debit card and UPI QR code to their customers.

Online platform

At today’s review meeting, the Finance Minister launched ‘ebikre’ portal for online auction of assets attached by banks. This platform, which is now mandatory for PSBs, is likely to be extended to private sector banks in the coming days, said Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar.

Today's review meeting was attended by top bankers including SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar and PNB Managing Director & CEO SS Mallikarjuna Rao

Published on December 28, 2019

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