Unpaid inland bills at banks

COMMERCIAL banks sitting with unpaid bills against inland L/Cs are causing troubles to other banks suffering from capital shortage. Their indifference has raised concerns at the central bank which has earlier set November 27, 2013 as the cut off date to clear the snags. As reports said, most of these inland bills refer to banking scams at Sonali Bank, Agrani Bank and such other banks in which dishonest business houses such as Hall-Mark and Bismillah Groups have swindled money using fictitious inland bills. Other banks bought them as part of a banking practice to earn commissions and have now become the victims. Reports said about 30 scheduled banks have fallen into the trap and are not settling overdue bills. Meanwhile, one more date fixed by the central bank has also expired and the banks have ignored the caution that the failing banks may face penalties. The next date has been set for January 19 and the matter has raised tensions within the banking sector.
As per Bangladesh Bank figures the value of the inland bills stood at Tk 2,000 crore as on November 30 against Tk 3,643 crore in March of last year. Practice suggests that such bills are settled within 15 working days if there is no legal complication. But, in this case, the banks are not settling the bills for a long time despite frequent attempts by the central bank. Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has initiated several cases centering the banking scams and most bankers are now reluctant to pay the bills until the cases are settled at the courts.
In fact, the banking scams carried out under the cover of political operatives of the ruling party have almost ruined the entire sector. The government has failed to recover the main loans and the offshoots of the scams have hit all other banks as its spill over effect. Since they have bought the bills, they are obliged to settle them but as these were bogus bills they failed to receive any collection. Now the question is where the additional money will come from to pay for them. Now banks will have to earn the money through additional provisioning and its means higher interest rates on commercial loans which impede investments. Meanwhile the profitability of banks has dipped this year following the previous scam-hit year and over 30 banks are facing troubles to settle the claims.
The problems of the banking sector are manifold. Management inefficiency in most banks and the rise of a section of corrupt officials under the cover of the ruling party and government appointed directors have made the sector, particularly the state owned banks target of swindling. In fact, banks are victims of state sponsored robbery. We don’t see any quick solution to the problem and the central bank should also bear part of the blame. It did not act in time despite being warned of the sanctioning of scandalous loans. We urge banks to protect depositors’ money and develop enhanced vigilance and management efficiency to check frauds.

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