Cashiers, peon among those penalised for bank NPAs in FY18, reveals RTI

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Responding to a question in the Lok Sabha on public-sector banks’ (PSBs’) declining profits, the then finance minister Arun Jaitley had said in December 2018 that 6,049 PSB officials had been penalised for rising non-performing assets (NPAs) in 2017-18. However, not all of these employees were managers — some were single-window operators, cashiers, even a peon— show data obtained through right to information (RTI) applications.

State-owned banks account for around 90 per cent of the combined NPAs of the country’s scheduled commercial banks.

Jaitley had said: “Depending on the gravity of their lapses, minor or major penalty has been imposed on erring officials, including, inter-alia dismissal, removal from service, compulsory retirement, reduction to a lower grade, reduction to a lower stage in time, scale of pay, etc. In all the cases, depending on the amount involved, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or police complaints have been lodged.”

In July this year, current finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Lok Sabha that 41,360 bank employees had been held responsible for NPAs in the past five financial years.

Recently, replies to RTI applications filed by transparency activist Venkatesh Nayak — reviewed by Business Standard — gave details of employees penalised in FY18 along with their designation, branch, and the nature of the penalty imposed on them.

They revealed that most of those penalised were managers across different scales, with the highest being Scale 7 (General Manager), and the lowest Scale 1 (Officer). The list for at least one bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, however, showed that 17 single-window operators (SWOs), five head cashiers, two clerks, one clerk-cum-cashier and one peon-cum-housekeeper were also among those penalised for staff delinquency. The penalties imposed on these employees had the same severity as those imposed on managerial staff — withholding of increment, demotion to a lower stage for one year, and censure under provisions of bipartite settlement.

No PSB chairman, director, deputy director or managing director was penalised, as these executives do not come under the purview of staff disciplinary rules and are, therefore, exempt. However, there is a possibility that cases might have been lodged against such executives separately, information of which was not given by most banks.

Of the 21 PSBs, 15, including State Bank of India (SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB), did not divulge data on staff delinquency. This was even as SBI and PNB had the highest number of employees against whom staff accountability had been fixed in the past five financial years — 8,035 and 4,488 employees, respectively.