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Spl audit in banks, FIs to start soon: Kamal

FE Report | March 14, 2019 12:00:00

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal speaking at the Annual Conference-2019 of Janata Bank Limited in the city on Wednesday

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal Wednesday projected the country's economy to grow at a rate over 8.0 per cent this fiscal year (FY 2018-19).

"We've still some components to add. The growth is already 8.1 per cent at this moment. After adding the rest of the components, it will reach 8.15-8.25 per cent," he said.

This year, the gross domestic product (GDP) would have an unbelievable growth, added the finance minister.

He was speaking at the annual conference of scam-hit state-owned Janata Bank in the capital on Wednesday.

Mr Kamal said the banking and financial sector is the country's weakest sector now. "We admit it or not, the financial sector is our weakest point."

He also criticised lease financing organisations, saying that most officials of many non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) are not available during office hours.

The minister spoke of running a special audit in every bank and financial institution very soon, saying: "We've already started work in this regard."

He, however, asked the bankers not to be worried. Audits are not meant to send anybody to jail. This is an attempt to assess the situation.

Mr Kamal also referred to some much-needed reforms in the banking sector, saying internal control system in banks is missing in the absence of internal audit.

There should be a system of internal audit so that every transaction is verified automatically, he observed.

The minister urged the good bankers to report against bad ones to stop corruption in banks.

"Why don't you stop your fellow bankers who are corrupt before someone from outside does it?" he said to Janata Bank officials.

He also censured some finance ministry officials for not serving accordingly.

Mr Kamal spoke of his government's policy of zero-tolerance against corruption in the banking sector.

"Whatever happened earlier in banks won't be repeated," he said, indicating high-profile loan scams.

The minister exhorted the banks to be automated as the world is going ahead with automation.

He called bankers for rolling out a uniform and comprehensive service as many technologies are complicated to use and it is a waste of money.

Terming himself pro-business, Mr Kamal said, "But those who use money borrowed from banks in wrong places and fail to refund won't be spared."

"The bank officials who are helping these dishonest traders will also be traced out," he avowed. Mr Kamal said, "I can find those bank officials who aided the dishonest businessmen within hours."

He said people are losing trust in banks day by day. Their trust is simply fading away. The minister said no director will get appointment without subject-specific knowledge to run a bank.

"I'll do everything to convince the prime minister so that no director comes without bank-specific knowledge," he continued.

At the event, Bangladesh Bank (BB) governor Fazle Kabir said banks must get tougher with wilful defaulters and sue them.

"Filing a case is easy, but it is not the quick way to recover money. You have to try all other options before filing a lawsuit," he explained.

Mr Kabir urged Janata Bank to disburse loans for cottage, small and medium enterprises.

Replying to a query, the BB chief said the defamation case against Bangladesh Bank by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) is not a big deal.

"Our case against the RCBC will continue. The defamation case won't affect it," he told the newsmen at the end of the event.

The BB sued the Manila-based RCBC for its role in the $81-million cyber heist from its account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2016.

Financial institutions division secretary Md Asadul Islam said digitisation of Janata Bank and the strengthening of its internal audit is the key to ensuring transparency.

The bank's officials need more training to be conversant with changing technologies, he cited.

Janata Bank chairman Luna Shamsuddoha said they are working with the central bank, finance ministry and other agencies to recover the bank's defaulted loans.

The defaulted loans with business groups Anon Tex and Crescent Group have a legacy as the two have been the Janata clients for long, he added.

The bank lent above Tk 100 billion to Anon and Crescent, not complying with the central bank's single borrower exposure limit criteria.

Janata made a net profit of Tk 2.6 billion in 2017.

But last year, its loss skyrocketed to a whopping Tk 60 billion, mainly because of the two big borrowers' failure to repay the loans.

The BB data shows non-performing loans, a core indicator of a bank's health, surged 196 per cent to Tk 172 billion last year, the highest among all banks, from Tk 58 billion in 2017.

Another FE report adds: The finance minister on Wednesday declined to make any comment on the defamation case filed by a Filipino Rizal against Bangladesh Bank (BB) terming it a 'subjudice' matter.

On Tuesday, the Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) filed the case against the central bank as it sued the Filipino lender last month, accusing it of helping cyber criminals steal money from the BB's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

"When a case is filed, it remains with the court. We can't comment before a final verdict comes. Don't ask me on such matters," he told reporters after a meeting of the cabinet committee on public procurement at the Bangladesh secretariat.

The meeting approved 10 proposals including the procurement of cars for assistant commissioners (AC) land, 50,000 tonnes of wheat, contraceptive pills, and the appointment of a consultant to build the first terminal of Payra seaport.

The minister said a decision was taken earlier that the public sector manufacturers will get preference while supplying goods or services against government procurement. If no public sector manufacturer is found then local private sector suppliers will get the priority.

He said the meeting approved the procurement of over 200 double cabin pick-up cars from state-owned Pragoti Industries Ltd under the direct purchase method at a cost of Tk 1.03 billion.

Mr Kamal noted the approval is given for the procurement of 50,000 tonnes of wheat to be supplied by an Australian company. The purchase will cost Tk 1.14 billion.

The minister said that Payra was a dream project for Bangladesh which, once built, will change the landscape of the area.

The area will turn into another commercial hub like Chittagong after the port is developed.

The meeting approved the appointment of a Korean company for providing consultancy for building the Payra port terminal.

Replying to a question, the minister said the government is building a deep-sea port in Matarbari, which will be able to accommodate large vessels equivalent to 10,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT).

Responding to another question, Mr Kamal said four seaports Chittagong, Mongla, Paira, and Matarbai seem to be enough to meet country's port-related needs.

The government will only think about another sea-port in Sonadia after the capacity of those four ports is saturated, he said, adding that will take time.

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