Pinched by RBI’s scathing criticism of the inordinate delays in pension payouts to its customers, the state-run lender has put up advertisements in leading dailies, saying ‘We care for you’
Four months after Moneylife had reported that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had cracked down on the country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) and other banks for the inordinate delays in payments faced by government pensioners, SBI has issued an advertisement in leading newspapers that seeks to put customers' worries to rest, asking them to avail of its free helpline services for all pension-related queries.
Earlier, RBI had raised an alarm after a complaint was forwarded by a former highly-placed government officer to the deputy governor of the central bank, outlining the shoddy service given by the country's largest lender, State Bank of India (SBI), in the form of extensive delays in pension payments. Moneylife had written about this development.
(See:http://www.moneylife.in/article/8/4969.html).This former officer had apparently been kept waiting unsuccessfully for ten months to receive his revised pension under the Sixth Pay Commission. This complaint forced the RBI to take a deeper look at the systems put in place by SBI for pension payments. A joint team drawn from both RBI and SBI investigated the matter and found various discrepancies in the way things were being administered.
Taking a serious view of the matter, the RBI has put in a strongly worded letter to the chairman of the bank questioning the lack of customer sensibility despite being a premier bank in the public domain. It has pointed to the absence of an effective system of customer service at the branch level where pensioners normally interface with the front office.
This also forced the RBI to inspect the system at other Agency Banks making pension payments. The findings were more or less the same across all Agency Banks.
In view of the above, the RBI had advised these banks (through a circular dated 9 April 2010), including SBI, to undertake review of the system of attending to customer service and have a pension accounts guide at all branches to assist the pensioners in all their dealings with the bank. Additionally, the RBI had demanded that suitable arrangements be made, to place on the bank website details about the pension calculations, and made available to the pensioners at periodic intervals with sufficient advertisements to that effect.
As with the other banks, RBI demanded that SBI make the payment of the revised pension and arrears within 15 days from the date of receipt of its communication to that effect. Additionally, it also advised the bank to make a penal interest payment of 2% for any delay beyond the due date, which is to be credited to the pensioner's account automatically without any claim from the pensioner on the same day when the bank affords the credit for revised pension or arrears.
RBI sources told Moneylife, "We had asked SBI to look into 1,400 cases where the amount involved was to the tune of Rs30 lakh. These have been satisfactorily dealt with by the bank. SBI makes the largest payouts of pension funds in the country. We are happy that SBI is making efforts to strengthen its customer services."
SBI's advertisement requests customers to call at their helpline number for all pension-related information, including basic and dearness allowance for the past six months, arrears received and commutation. The advertisement also mentions that a pensioner can also register a complaint online by logging on to www.sbi.co.in and filling up the Customer Complaint Form. A Complaint Registration Number will be issued to the complainant.
New Delhi: State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) will start producing natural gas from a block that sits next to Reliance Industries' (RIL) prolific KG-D6 fields in the Bay of Bengal in 2016-17.
Minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Jitin Prasada today informed the Lok Sabha that in-place gas reserves of 3.42 trillion cubic feet have been established in block KG-DWN-98/2, in the Krishna-Godavari basin.
Of this, 1.904 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) is recoverable.
"ONGC has submitted Declaration of Commerciality (DoC) for the Northern and Southern Discovery Area in the block," he said.
Seven of the finds are in the northern part of the block, where Cairn India holds a minority 10% stake. Gas from these is proposed to be produced by combining them with two other gas discoveries in the adjacent block, he said.
"The DoC is under examination in the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH)," he said.
While Mr Prasada did not indicate the expected production from the block, company sources said 25-30 million standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) of gas can be produced by 2016.
Once the DGH approves the commercial viability of the finds, ONGC will make a formal field development plan (FDP) outlining the specifics of producing gas from the find.
ONGC has tentatively pegged the investment required for bringing to production the Padmawati, Kanakadurga, Annapurna, N-1, D/KT, U, A, W and E gas finds in the Northern Discovery Area (NDA) of the block at over $5 billion, sources said.
As the discoveries are not independently viable, the firm plans to tie them with finds in the neighbouring acreage and develop them as a cluster. ONGC envisages 25-30 mmscmd of output from the NDA fields and G-4 and GS-29 finds in the neighbouring acreage by 2016.
ONGC's KG-DWN-98/2 block sits next to the prolific KG-D6 block of Reliance Industries in the Krishna-Godavari basin, off the East Coast.
The state-owned company had a few months back put an investment requirement of $4.05 billion for producing natural gas from the ultra deep sea UD-1 discovery in the southern part of the KG-DWN-98/2 block.
Sources said UD-1 is being planned to be developed separately and together with the NDA fields, ONGC's total spending would be in the region of $10 billion.
Sources said ONGC has so far drilled a total of 13 exploratory wells in the 7,294 sq km block, which is divided into northern and southern appraisal areas.
The Northern Discovery Area (NDA) consists of the Padmawati, Kanakadurga, Annapurna, N-1, D/KT, U, A, W and E gas finds in water depths ranging from 594 metres to 1,283 metres. The Southern Discovery Area consisting of the UD-1 discovery falls in ultra-deepwater with a depth of 2,841 metres.
New Delhi: Whether or not a part of an estimated Rs5 lakh crore of employees provident fund (EPF) should be invested in the stock markets has become a bone of contention between the ministries of labour and finance, reports PTI.
While the finance ministry wants the labour ministry to work on investing about 15% of the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) money in stock markets for better returns without taking the issue to the PF trustees, the latter has decided to do otherwise.
Whereas the EPFO commands a corpus of Rs3 lakh crore, other provident funds, which follow the fund's investment pattern, have another Rs2 lakh crore.
In a letter to labour secretary P C Chaturvedi, finance secretary Ashok Chawla referred to the changes by EPF schemes earlier without any discussion in the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) and said, "It (labour ministry) can take a similar view on the issue of investment pattern."
However, the labour ministry has forwarded the letter to EPFO to take a view on the matter.
CBT is an apex decision making body for EPFO and is likely to meet on 10th September to take up the issue.
The finance ministry wants the labour ministry to follow investment pattern notified by it, which provides for up to 15% of the corpus in stock markets.
However, CBT's advisory body Finance and Investment Committee (FIC) yesterday stuck to its stand against investment of EPFO money into stock markets — either in shares or indices.
In his letter, Mr Chawla sought to remind the labour ministry that it used to adopt the investment pattern notified by the ministry of finance for many years.
"However, the ministry of labour has not adopted the investment pattern notified by the ministry of finance in January, 2005 and November, 2008 and investment pattern of the labour ministry continues to be the same which was earlier notified in July, 2003," the letter said.
Favouring the stand of no investment in stock markets, EPFO said at the FIC meeting yesterday that while investment in stock markets is subject to market volatility, "there is no risk of capital erosion in the case of EPF investments."
It also countered the finance ministry's claim that the New Pension System (NPS), which has an option to invest in stock markets, is giving better returns than EPF.
The finance secretary said in his letter that while NPS for central government employees could generate a weighted average investment return of 14.82% for the central government employees in 2008-09, EPF is giving only 8.5% returns to its subscribers for many years.
The EPFO has been giving 8.5% returns to its subscribers since 2005-06.
Countering Mr Chawla's views, EPFO said the income earned on EPF investments are actually realised, while the returns declared in NPS are notional and subject to market conditions.
This is so because, said EPFO, the returns generated under NPS are based on net asset value while the returns declared by EPFO are based on actual coupon received on its investments.