The CVC constituted panel — Advisory Board for Banking and Financial Frauds (ABBFF) — has given its advice in 139 bank fraud cases involving an amount of Rs 21,735 crore in the last three years. Headed by former Vigilance Commissioner (VC) T M Bhasin, ABBFF was set up in August 2019, by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for conducting first-level of examination in fraud cases reported by the public sector banks and public sector financial institutions before these cases were reported to external investigative agencies like CBI etc.
The panel has been entrusted with the task of first-level checking of possible criminality or malafide intention of the staff in the fraud cases referred to them before advising to investigative agencies. Earlier in January this year, the ambit of the panel was expanded to conduct first-level examination of large bank fraud cases involving an amount of Rs 3 crore, as against the mandate of Rs 50 crore. Since its formation, ABBFF has received 147 references from different organisations. Out of which, advice has been tendered for 139 cases and in other eight cases, further details have been sought from respective banks for the consideration of the panel, sources said.
Out of the total, 119 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 advice of the panel and the same has been duly tendered within the scope/purview of the Advisory Board.
This information was shared by the panel in a meeting with CVC Suresh N Patel and two VCs — Arvind Kumar and P K Srivastavan earlier this week. While dealing with the cases, sources said, ABBFF scrupulously examines each case critically to undertake threadbare discussions with 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 MD & CEOs of the concerned public sector organisations to elicit their views with regard to ease of making reference 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, confidence level of the officials of these financial institutions has gone up considerably resulting in improved sentiments for loan sanction, credit dispensation and overall credit growth in the economy, sources said.
It was observed that a sense of ‘fear of unwarranted hardships’ existed among the officials of public sector banks on decisions taken by them in normal course of their working, resulting into reluctance or undue delay in sanctioning of 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, 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.