Even as we witness India’s biggest banking scam to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore committed by billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in connivance with the internal employees of Punjab National Bank, India’s second biggest lender had received at least two awards for excellence in banking vigilance in calendar year 2017 alone. Interestingly, in the last three years, the number goes up to atl least three. In 2017, the year in which the major public sector lender PNB issued 293 LoUs to companies headed by Nirav Modi and his family, the bank had received two awards.
In March-17, PNB’s Chief Vigilance Officer S K Nagpal had received a “Corporate Vigilance Excellence Award” from the central vigilance commissioner KV Chowdary at a “Vigilance Conclave” held in the premises of Institute of Public Enterprise (IPE) in Hyderabad. Institute of Public Enterprise is an MBA institute on campus at Osmania University.
The bank had again received another award towards the end of October- 2017, from an event organised by the Central Vigilance Commission. The CVC had organised a Vigilance Awareness Week in New Delhi in October-17, where the commission gave awards to many public sector undertakings for work done in the areas of anti-corruption, in alignment with the guidelines laid down by the Commission and India’s central bank, RBI.
Notably, PNB had bagged the Vigilance Excellence Award for “‘Outstanding’ Achievement in ‘Timely Completion of Disciplinary Proceedings.” CVC KV Chowdary presented the award to S K Nagpal of PNB “for completing 92% of the total disciplinary proceedings within the prescribed timelines,” says the CVC’s website.
”They organise this annual event where 10-12 PSUs participate. I was called there as a speaker. After my speech, they requested me to distribute some certificates, which I did. PNB and some other PSUs also won some certificates. The institute’s management selects winners based on some parameters set by them,” KV Chowdary told the Indian Express after the Hyderabad function.
According to a report in the newspaper, KV Chowdary said that the CVC gives awards annually based on various categories of work. “PNB was awarded for bringing down departmental proceedings. See, if you do well in English, you will get good marks. But that won’t take you through Hindi as well,” The Indian Express reported CVC Chowdary as saying after giving away the commission’s award in New Delhi.
According to the newspaper, the CVC has asked the PNB brass on Monday to answer “questions on lapses by the bank’s employees in connection with the alleged Nirav Modi scam.”
A senior official from the Punjab National Bank reportedly told the newspaper that Vigilance awards are given based on overall performance, but in any large organisation there can be a few crooks. The senior official said that the LoU fraud was done by a couple of people in one branch in an organisation of 70,000 employees with 7,000 bank branches. According to the official, this does not indicate deterioration in the vigilance standards. “However, I agree that there was a failure of the bank’s internal control systems in not detecting the fraud early on,” the newspaper quoted the senior official of PNB as saying.