The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) says Punjab National Bank (PNB) wrote off over Rs 8,500 crore as non-performing assets (NPAs) in the last two years. But the PNB says it did not write off a single paisa during this period.
The Bank of India, on the other hand, claims its write-off in the last two years has been more than Rs 17,700 crore but the RBI puts the BoI write-off figure during this period at Rs 2,567 crore — less than 15 per cent.
RTI replies to queries from The Indian Express show discrepancies between statistics maintained by the RBI and data supplied by individual banks. This newspaper filed separate RTI applications with the RBI and 28 state-owned banks on NPAs written off by banks in the last 10 years.
As reported by The Indian Express, the RBI said Rs 1.14 lakh crore was written-off by public sector banks (PSBs) in the last three years.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court, taking suo motu cognizance of the report, questioned the RBI whether the write-offs were a “big fraud.”
Last week, a bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur also made the Union Finance Ministry and an association of PSBs as parties to the case.
But RTI replies received by The Indian Express demonstrate disparity in figures of the banking regulator and the banks, raising questions about the extent of the bad loans.
Most banks maintain they are not obligated under law or regulations to inform the RBI about the amount they write off.
To a question whether it reports to the RBI about the amount written off in a financial year, the SBI said ‘No’, the PNB said there are no guidelines for submission of account-wise details of amounts written off.
So consider this. While the RBI replied to this newspaper that the SBI’s write-off for 2014-15 was Rs 21,313 crore, the SBI said it wrote off Rs 15,509 crore.
Similarly, PNB said its write-off for the last two years was nil but the RBI data said PNB wrote off Rs 6,587 crore and Rs 1,947 crore in the last two years.
For Bank of India, the write-off totalled Rs 25,471 crore since 2012-13 but according to RBI, it was only Rs 4,983 crore — less than one-fifth the amount written off by the bank.
The other case of mismatch pertains to the Central Bank of India. According to RBI, this bank wrote off Rs 4,442 crore since 2012-13 but the bank, in its reply, claimed its write-off was only Rs 180 crore.
Syndicate Bank said it wrote off NPAs of Rs 158 crore in the last three years whereas the RBI’s information pegs this amount at Rs 3,849 crore — more than 24 times. Vijaya Bank’s RTI reply said its write-off was only Rs 25 crore since 2012-13 but the RBI said this amount was Rs 1,630 crore.
Data matched only in those cases where banks have diligently reported to the RBI. The IDBI, Bank of Baroda, Corporation Bank, Dena Bank and State Bank affiliates, which said they do send information about the write-off to the RBI, were the only cases in which there was no mismatch in numbers.
The RBI’s reply to this newspaper mentioned its source of data as off-site balance sheets, analysis returns and global operations. This newspaper sent a questionnaire to the RBI, seeking a clarification on the discrepancies but the queries remained unanswered.
While UCO Bank, Indian Overseas Bank and Andhra Bank declined to answer queries regarding the reporting to the RBI, the Central Bank and Bank of Maharashtra said they usually report about top 50 NPA portfolios to the regulator.