The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) constituted panel -- Advisory Board for Banking and Financial Frauds (ABBFF) -- has given its advice after a thorough examination of the role of all levels of officials on 84 bank fraud cases involving amounts of over Rs 3 crore in the last three years.
Headed by former Vigilance Commissioner T M Bhasin, ABBFF was set up in August 2019, by CVC in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for conducting first-level of examination in the cases of frauds reported by Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Public Sector Financial Institutions (PSFIs) before these cases were reported to the external investigative agencies viz. CBI, etc.
Earlier in January this year, the ambit of the panel was expanded to conduct a first-level examination of large bank fraud cases involving amounts of over Rs 3 crore, as against a mandate of Rs 50 crore.
Since its formation, ABBFF has received 92 references from different organizations. Out of which, advice has since been tendered for 84 cases and the other eight cases are proposed to be discussed later this week, sources said.
Out of the same, 67 cases have been received by the panel since January 2022, i.e. after revision in the scope of reference.
Additionally, sources said, nine references have been received from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for seeking the advice of the panel and the same has been duly tendered within the scope/purview of the Advisory Board.
While dealing with the cases, sources said, ABBFF scrupulously examines each case critically to undertake threadbare discussions with the concerned CVO (Nodal Officer) so as to ascertain whether there is any criminality or malafide intent discernible at all.
The Bhasin panel frequently interacts with the CVOs and MDs and CEOs of the concerned public sector organizations to elicit their views with regard to ease of making references and the operations of the board.
Bhasin, a veteran banker, served as vigilance commissioner in the CVC for four years from June 2015 to June 2019. Prior to vigilance commissioner, he was chairman and managing director of Chennai-based Indian Bank for more than five years.
Based on the feedback from various sources it has been gathered that with the setting up of the ABBFF, the confidence level of the officials of these financial institutions has gone up considerably resulting in improved sentiments for sanction of loans, credit dispensation, and overall credit growth in the economy, sources said.
As per RBI's latest data growth in lending by public sector banks (PSBs) has improved significantly to 7.8 per cent in March 2022 from 3.6 per cent a year ago.
It was observed that a sense of 'fear of unwarranted hardships' existed among the officials of PSBs on decisions taken by them in the normal course of their work, resulting in reluctance or undue delay in sanctioning the loans and taking financial decisions, ultimately affecting the growth of the economy as a whole.
The idea to establish ABBFF was to remove the fear of witch-hunting and actions based on hindsight, among officials of these financial institutions.
ABBFF is thus serving the purpose to function as a 'Safety Valve' for the officials by critically and comprehensively examining the gravity of lapses, and accountability, so that a well-considered and justified decision could be taken before the outside agencies haul up the concerned officials, for connivance, complicity or malafide intent.