Complete arbitrariness in the functioning of the department of food and supply in GNCTD was forcing citizens to take the RTI route to get their rightful entitlements, the CIC noted. This is 163rd in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed special food commissioner of Department of Food And Supply (DFS) in the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), to conduct an enquiry into the matter where below poverty line (BPL) card holders are not getting rations. While the Public Information Officer (PIO) and food and supply officer (FSO) were blaming computer systems for the problems, the food commissioner stated that complaint about computer systems were unjustifiable.
While giving this judgement on 27 June 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “This appears to show complete arbitrariness in the functioning of the department which can only be a fertile breeding ground for corruption. The Bench directs Special Food commissioner to inquire into the matter and send the report to the appellant and the CIC before 30 July 2011.”
Delhi resident Raj Kumari, on 7 January 2011, sought from the PIO information about the status of her ration card. Here is the information she sought under the RTI Act...
With respect to the complaint in your department dated 27 September 2010 for providing me ration on my BPL Ration Card operational:
1) Provide the Daily Progress Report on my complaint.
2) Provide the details of the officer to whom the complaint was forwarded, for how many days did the complaint remain with each of the officers and what action was taken by each of the with regards to the complaint.
3) Provide the name and designation of the officers who were supposed to take action on my complaint but failed to do so.
4) What action will be taken against such officers and by when will such an action be taken?
5) Within how many days will action be taken on my complaint?
In his reply on 24 January 2011, the PIO said, "With reference to your letter dated 03/01/2011, repeated attempts are being made that ration be provided to all the card holders at the earliest."
On 7 March 2011, the PIO sent another reply stating, "In reference to your letter under the RTI, with respect to your BPL Card No3330320, your name is not available on the list. Attempts are being made to update your name on the list after which ration will be provided to you."
Citing the PIO did not provide any reply even after the stipulated time, Raj Kumari, the applicant filed her first appeal.
The copy of the order by the First Appellate Authority (FAA) was not attached (in the second appeal) but the appellant claimed that the FAA directed the FSO to update the list of the ration card holders and provide ration to all whose ration card number was on the list.
Raj Kumari, citing the information sought for had not yet been provided by the PIO and no action was taken on the complaint, approached the CIC with her second appeal.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, noted that the appellant was another victim of the wayward methods of the Food and Supplies Department.
"The FSO and deemed PIO claims that computers and computer systems are creating problems whereas the Food Commissioner met the undersigned last week and claimed that field staff is complaining about computer systems unjustifiably. The FSO admits that nearly 300 BPL ration cardholders are not getting their rations since July-August 2010. The FSO claims that the biometric data of these card holders was taken and but was not available with the main computer branch at headquarters. He stated consequent to this; BPL cardholders are not getting rations. He also informed the Bench that there are some Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) cardholders, who are also on the same plight.
Raj Kumari stated that when she has gone for the first appellate hearing she was asked to go to the third floor at computer branch, where she was informed that her ration entitlement was being allocated to the shop.
"The appellant made enumerable trips everywhere and stated that she was able to get ration only in April 2011. This appears to show complete arbitrariness in the functioning of the department which can only be a fertile breeding ground for corruption," Mr Gandhi noted.
While allowing the appeal, the Bench directed the special food commissioner to inquire into this (matter) and take appropriate measures to see that the appellant and others get their rations. "It is distressing that number of such cases keep coming through the RTI route to get their rightful entitlements," Mr Gandhi, the then CIC noted in his order.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/001192/13106
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/001192
Appellant : Raj Kumari,
Respondent : Alok Bhattacharya
Deemed PIO & FSO(C-47)
Department of Food and Supply,
Cuircle-47, Asian Market,
Pushp Vihar, Phase-III,
New Delhi 110062
The fake job scam has acquired a new dimension. Scamsters try to con you into shelling out at least Rs525 to accept a VPP parcel that ostensibly contains a call letter for a job. In a faltering economy with massive layoffs, this seems like the latest trick to cheat people. We investigate one such scam
SSS Industrial Job Services, the Andhra Pradesh based placement and recruitment agency is luring job seekers with its fake call letter scam using the Indian Post. This is similar to the value payable postal (VPP) service or cash on delivery (CoD) fraud used by scamsters during the 1990s to dupe thousands of people under the pretext of receiving radio-transistor or mixer-grinder. The parcels usually contained stones or bricks and sometimes just waste papers!
SSS Industrial Job Services is sending the VPPs to job seekers. It may be using the database from any job site for sending call letters. One such VPP landed at my door, where the postman asked my mother to pay Rs525 (Rs500 for the parcel and Rs25 for postal fee). Since I was not at home, my mother refused to accept the parcel and pay any money. Then the postman left a delivery note with my mother asking me to collect the VPP from the post office by paying Rs525.
Since I had no knowledge of SSS Industrial Job Services or any such placement agency, I checked the background of the agency on Internet. There are several complaints about the agency and its VPP parcels that contain fake call letters printed in Telugu. On ConsumerCourt.in, several people have complained about receiving VPP from SSS Industrial Job Services that contain fake call letter.
Mamtha, one such victim, says. “I got fake call letter on 30/4/2012 through post and they charged me 500 rupees. On inquiry I came to know that it is a fake call letter, even I searched in consumer forum they are many victims who got same fake letters.”
Another victim says, “I am M.Kumari Muthu Kiruba. On a Saturday, last year, (date 16-6-2012), my family and I went to my native place. So my neighbour received the call letter on my name from your company. But to receive the call letter they charge Rs525.”
Another complainant who received such VPP says, “Sir, I am Suhas Gaikwad I also received same call letter from SSS Industries with same address and was charged Rs525. But I can’t accept this letter till it is in at the post Office. I first want to inquire about the company. Then, I saw the post about the fake CALL LETTERS from SSS Industries. So please guide me whether or not I should receive that letter.”
However, one Uday Kumar from Bangalore posted a different view about the SSS Industries parcel in ComplaintBoard.in. He says, “Guys it is not fake call letter, I got their number and spoke to them. SSS is the consultancy, which is providing job services in Andhra Pradesh. Rs525 is the postal charges and we have to go for interview to their office. If we are OK with the job which they offer, we have to pay Rs3,000. Otherwise, there will be no extra charges. Please stop these negative comments.”
Even accepting it as a genuine call letter, as per Uday Kumar, why should an agency from Andhra Pradesh send call letters to somebody in Mumbai - that too in Telugu, without the person even applying for the job, in the first place?
In short, this is nothing but a fraud and in case you receive such VPP from SSS Industrial Job Services, do not accept the parcel by paying any money. In case you are already duped, then please reach your post office immediately and file a complaint against the agency.
This is what the Indian Post says about fraud through VPPs
“If a complaint is made by the addressee immediately after the receipt of a value payable postal (VPP) article, that it was sent dishonestly or fraudulently, the Head of the Circle may, if he is satisfied that there are prima facie grounds for believing that the value payable postal article was sent with the intention of defrauding the addressee, withhold the payment to the sender of the money recovered from the addressee. If after making such enquiries as may be necessary, he is fully satisfied that the value payable postal article was sent with this intention, he may order the return of the article to the sender and refund to the addressee the sum of money recovered from him on delivery of the value-payable postal article.”
RBI must lay out exhaustive directions mandating detailed procedures and the process of the conduct and content stock audit of borrowers preferably with a detailed checklist to ensure no step is overlooked. This only would help reduce the bad loans of NPAs
Ranjit Singh, the chief of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) laments “bank frauds above Rs50 crore have grown almost 10 times in the last two years. Bulk of the non-performing assets (NPAs) related to just 30 defaulter accounts. The CBI has initiated inquiries
– banks need to realise that delays in reporting frauds affect recovery proceedings.”
This indicates the laxity at all levels in addressing this serious concern. In India the bad loans are designated NPAs while in the West they are termed stressed assets that have led to the inglorious end of great banking institutions across the world.
There are two reports in the Hindu Business Line: “Strengthen inspection of units financed, FinMin tells banks” and (Secretary Financial Services MoF) “Takru’s tough talk: Banks must seek management change before recasting corporate loans”. The belated reaction of our union ministry of finance (MoF) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), our banking regulator, being a mute spectator now waking up, appear to be acts of locking the stable after the horse has bolted. It is hoped that Raghuram Rajan, the new governor of RBI, will usher in urgent modifications in the archaic procedures and processes.
In India, when there is a banking regulator in the form of RBI for over half a century, why the MoF and not the RBI is reacting to sharp deteriorations in the quality of loan asset portfolio of banking sector as a whole. This is indeed an extremely alarming worry for all, which if not addressed on a priority basis, will lead India to the Cyprus or Greece type bank collapses.
Today Indian banking sector is on an expansion spree with 26 applicants waiting in a queue for new banking licences to add to the present 1,700 commercial banks of various descriptions comprising 27 state owned, 21 private and 3 dozen foreign plus smaller regional rural and urban co-operative banks.
There is an urgent need to totally overhaul the banking sector by upgrading the systems of on-site audit of compliances with laid out checks and balances. It is rather disturbing to see both the MoF and the RBI now belatedly waking up to the reality of increasing wilful defaulters on their advances portfolios. The ratio of the gross NPAs to gross advances has risen to 3.8% in 2013 from 3.2% in 2012. The ratio of restructured standard assets versus gross advances of public sector banks (PSBs) shot up to 7.1% from 5.7% and for the banking sector as a whole, the gross NPAs to gross advances ratio rose to 3.4% from 2.9%. The ratio of restructured standard assets and gross advances increased to 5.7% from 4.7%. Further, according to the RBI’s latest Finance Stability Report, the macro stress test of sectoral credit risk among seven select sectors that include construction, agriculture, iron and steel and engineering is expected to register higher NPA ratio of 4.7% to 4.8% by 2014.
It is noticed that there is absolute laxity on the part of the RBI, as the banking regulator on the one hand and the top managements of the banks across the board on the other. Especially, when it comes to having in place effective steps to pre-empt and prevent slippages in the asset quality well in time long before the advances begin slippage and are even considered ‘distressed’ and turn out to be ‘bad’ or ‘NPA’.
As a statutory auditor of banks on the RBI panel for long, it is my experience that advances just do not turn bad overnight. They always tend to incubate over a period of time during which time they invariably subtly indicate, show prompt visible signs of impending or incipient delinquency which the officials at the branch level conveniently choose to give a go-bye by claiming ‘pressure of work’.
It is the officials at branch levels who ought to effectively monitor the delinquent advances on a day-to-day basis. More particularly when the borrowers approach branch management to accommodate them by granting temporary overdraft facility by clearing cheques that they have issued without adequate balance or in excess of their borrowing limits. These acts undoubtedly represent clear-cut cases of the borrowers’ bad financial management leading to an impending doom.
When the customers’ default in the timely submission of their monthly stock and receivables statement, it is sure sign that they do it simply because they have neither the inventories nor debtors that provide them with drawing limits to justify the collaterals for the following month. In the absence of fixation of fresh drawing limits based on security available as represented by statements, they wrongly continue to enjoy limits far in excess of the securities that are on offer. The officials permitting such irregularities should then be deemed to be in connivance with the borrower to defraud the bank and their filing of routine post facto condonation requests to their controlling office should not be permitted to regularize this gross irregularity.
What is not strictly adhered to is the strict compliance by banks of the requirements of periodic on-site inspections by carrying out physical verification of the inventories and receivables to confirm their existence and ascertain their realisability in case they are to be realised when the borrower is in default.
This on-site inspection has necessarily to be carried out by independent professionals or experts. The third party professionals have the expertise and work force to visit the client any number of times, which is not always possible for the bank officials or employees, who can be fobbed off by the delinquent borrowers with much to hide or in possible connivance. Under no circumstances should it be left to any bank employee particularly those dealing with the advances and their monitoring.
A stock audit has also to include inspection of records to ascertain the mode of valuations of the inventories, their stacking conditions and movements to detect overvaluations and shortages in stocks. For verifications of debtors, a plain and simple scrutiny of transactions in the accounts will go a long way in ascertaining realisability. Similarly, recording of fictitious invoices for purchases and sales or siphoning away of funds for unrelated activities by wrong diversions can also come to light well in time.
The scope of the special stock audit exercise should also include in-depth procedure for improper or inadequate under pressure credit appraisals and sanctions as well as deficient post-disbursal monitoring, fake title deeds, multiple finance for the same security, inflated valuation reports, genuine business problems, diversion of working capital for unplanned capital and personal expenditure.
In cases of high-ticket large consortium advances, it is a practice for the lead banks to initially carry out the inspection to be followed up by the smaller lending partners carrying the audit independently in the subsequent period. It is noticed that those with a smaller share tend to act complacent by following the earlier report and not observe the standard verification procedures that the earlier verification may have overlooked. It has to be ensured that each verification has to be a standalone exercise and not ‘follow the leader’ type.
Indian businessmen also have in their midst quite a few wilful defaulters, who are invariably past-masters in swindling banks. The banks need to effectively monitor such high-risk individuals or entities with hawk eyes. The advances imposed from the top need to be put on the extremely highest risk category. It should be ensured that all communications relating to sanction and disbursement and the original title deeds as well as all other relevant documents are safely sealed and inspected annually. Much more care is called for before considering any proposal for restructuring of debts.
MoF Secretary Rajiv Takru very rightly pointed out that banks must insist on management change before considering restructure of loans by companies. “Half the time they are in a mess because of poor decisions of management. They now have no moral right to continue. More and more cases are seen of people taking advantage of distress by going back on their obligations by trying to negotiate deals for moratorium, reduction in interest rates and waivers. The banking system has been ‘too tolerant’ of such misbehaviour and this is not required. Companies cannot sit back and expect the banks to continue to take the hits.”
Talking tough must necessarily be followed up with the RBI laying out exhaustive directions mandating detailed procedures and the process of the conduct and content stock audit preferably with a detailed check list to ensure no step is overlooked. It is the actual on-site verification and not merely going by copying data files for non-existent securities that can uncover malpractices and will go a long way in preventing slippages.
(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant turned activist.)