ALARMING RISE IN BANK FRAUDS

THE BANKS PAID OVER RS132MN TO COMPLAINANTS IN 2010.

AMANULLAH BASHAR
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
May 23 - 29, 20
11

In compliance with the proverbial saying "Justice delayed is justice denied," the office of Banking Mohtasib is determined to resolve complaints against banks within a period of 45 days and that spirit is gauged from the fact that the banks were made to pay over Rs132 million to the complainants against the banks in 2010.

In fact, there is an alarming rise of 13 percent in bank frauds as compared to fraud figures in 2009 as most of the complaints were related to parallel banking and misappropriation of funds.

Mansurur Rehman Khan, the Banking Mohtasib Pakistan while sharing the 6th annual report for the year 2010 with the media said that a clean separation from bank services allows the delinquent employees to work in another bank and create a potential for further frauds there. A database of such tainted ex-employees maintained with the Pakistan Banks Association can help prevent repetition of frauds and promote consumer confidence in the banking system provided banks are instructed to refer to it before appointing any person.

In order to speed up the process of complaint resolution as well as save the complainants from the inconvenience of traveling to far-off destinations for hearings, they were held not only at banking Mohtasib Regional offices but also in other major cities of the country.

Internally, the policies and procedures were reviewed in 2010 to identify opportunities and improve the complaints resolution process. In this regard, the number of days taken to resolve a complaint was reduced from an average of 326 days in 2009 to 101 days in the year 2010. Today, it stands at an average 53 days, as informed by the Banking Mohtasib while efforts are underway to reduce the number of days to a period of 45 days.

About complaint resolution process, it was explained that the aim was to facilitate resolution through an amicable process of reconciliation. Where such mediations unsuccessful, the issue is analyzed and the concerned bank presented with findings and recommendations, they are provided an opportunity of hearing and formal order is issued. Overall, Banking Mohtasib Pakistan issued orders directing banks to pay a total amount of Rs132, 911,570 to the complaints during year 2010.

The annual report of the Banking Mohtasib Pakistan revealed some interesting stories on bank frauds and lack of service orientation among the bank employees. Basic principle is that mistakes do happen but these are to be accepted in good grace and should be defended where the bank's fault is evident. Ideally, complaints should be considered as a guideline to revamp service standards. Contrary to this when a complaint is referred by a complainant to the line management of banks, at times it is not dealt with an open mind. During the year 2010, some cases where banks adopted an indifferent approach to the complaint resolution process were noticed. The stand usually taken is defensive in nature with little effort made to investigate the core issue.

SERVICE ORIENTATION

In one of such case, a complainant alleged that at the time of issuance of a new cheque book, a cheque slip was stolen from his new cheque book by the bank's staff and later on this cheque was paid in the sum of Rs400,000 with his forged signature which is duly pointed out to the bank's representatives. During hearing, it was found that signatures on the cheque did not match with those on the bank's record. Both the parties eventually desired to get the signatures on the cheque examined by a handwriting expert. Accordingly, the cheque was examined by the handwriting expert, and the report given by him confirmed that the signature was forged. After receipt of the report, the bank took the plea that they did agree to an examination of cheque by an expert but had not agreed to make up for the loss to its customer if the report said the signature was forged.

Similarly, in a car financing case in which full and final payment was also made to the bank as per repayment schedule worked out by the bank when the complainant approached for issuance of No Objection Certificate for transfer of title to his name he was asked to pay an additional amount of Rs240,000. He lodged complaint with the office of Mohtasib. During review, it was found that the bank had overlooked some payments made by the complainant. On intervention by Mohtasib, the finance account was rechecked and the matter was settled against payment of Rs125,000. The matter could have resolved without the involvement of banking Mohtasib had the bank staff rechecked the account before demanding more money from the complainant particularly at the time when he had approached the bank with the evidence of repayments made by him. When the bank's mistake was discovered, its line management stated that it had "overlooked a payment made by the complainant" without apologizing for the agony caused to its client.

In another case a complainant availed auto finance but could not pay the monthly installments on due dates. The bank repossessed the vehicle when four monthly installments were in arrears but the vehicle was auctioned by the bank without proper advertisement. The complainant asserted that the vehicle was sold out at lower than market price whereas the bank insisted it had duly invited bids from public through an advertisement. During investigation by the banking Mohtasib, the bank admitted that the particular vehicle had not been included in the advertisement published by the bank.

Actually, in many car financing cases, the client has to run from pillar to post to get back his file and change of title even after full and final settlement as the staff dealing with car loans generally desire to get some bribe before releasing the file to the client. It's a common practice and need serious attention from the Mohtasib.

These and more incidents of this nature show that the banks still have to go a long way to improve their internal controls and service standards essential for a healthy and vibrant banking culture in the country.