Monday, January 28, 2013

My Days as an Auditor - Episode-5

There was a Udupi hotel by name Vihar near the Santacruz station in those days. It was quite a good hotel. Our Santacruz East branch was also located nearby. But it was difficult to eat food daily in this hotel. As I was holding a first class train pass up to Church Gate station, I continued to visit Rama Nayaks’ for dinner till I settled down with my family. It was comfortable for me to travel to Matunga station as it was the fourth station from Santacruz.

I settled down at my quarters in Santacruz. One Mr.Narasimhan, from Bangalore, who was working at our Kalina branch as an officer, helped me a lot in my initial days. There was an ex-service man by name Pinto, who was working as a security guard in our building. There was a shed in the compound in which he stayed. He used to speak only English and most of the time we could find him in a drunken state. He had a running feud with the land-lady. He would use the choicest English words to curse the lady. One of the duties he performed daily in the morning was to visit the milk distribution centre and collect milk bottles for the tenants in the building. For this he had to collect cash and empty milk bottles from the tenants in the previous night.  Sometimes it so happened that he would spend the money collected for his late night drinks. He would not be in a position to even get up in the morning. The tenants had no other alternative than to purchase milk from a private dairy, which used to be very costly as compared to the Bombay dairy milk. Of course there was no way the money could be recovered from Pinto. On the other hand, the hapless tenants had to pay him in the night for the next day milk collection! Basically Pinto was a lovable old military man who wanted to remain in Bombay till his death. But it was not to be. One fine day his son came from his village in Goa and took him away forcefully. He was the last security man at Vaseem Villa. The empty shed stood as a memorial for him till I left Bombay after seven years.

Our Andheri branch was headed by a Manager by name K R Shenoy. He had very recently taken charge and was quite a knowledgeable and a hardworking man. The branch had recently become eligible for a car basing on the business figures. He had just taken the possession of a brand new Premier Padmini car and was on a high. Unlike the present day, the possession of a car, that too an official car was a great achievement in those days. Of course Mr. Shenoy richly deserved it.

There was a senior officer called Kamath in the branch, who used to talk very humorously. Shenoy had just learnt four-wheeler driving and had started driving the bank car personally. One day he was telling his driving experiences. Kamath asked him the route on which he was coming daily. Shenoy sincerely thought that Kamath wanted to be picked up. He told him his route, which was actually the route in which Kamath had to travel daily. He also asked kamath whether he wanted a lift daily. But Kamath replied him with a firm ‘no’. Later I asked Kamath why he enquired the route if he was not interested in a lift. He told me that he just wanted to avoid the route as it was risky to be on the road when Shenoy was driving! He had ascertained the route only to ensure his own safety and not otherwise! I am not sure what Shenoy would have felt if he had heard this bizarre explanation! Later Shenoy took us to visit several clients on his car. I was carefully observing him with some apprehensions during his driving! Eventually I found myself safe!

Kamath told me another funny incident. Our bank had two divisions in Bombay, Bombay West and Bombay East, each headed by a Divisional Manager. While the western suburb branches were administered by DO West located on Queens Road, all other branches except Fort branch were under DO East located in Sion-Koliwada. Andheri branch was under DO West. The Divisional Manger (DM) heading this DO had certain qualities and habits not expected of him. As per Kamath, one day during office hours, he found somebody knocking at the window doors behind his seat. He got up and opened the window. To his shock and utter dismay, he found his DM standing outside the window and shouting at him. He was asking Kamath why he had shifted the office door and placed a window there!

Kamath ran outside and tried to bring the DM inside through the door. But the DM insisted that he should shift the door back at the place where the window was situated. As per him he had seen the door there on his previous visit and he saw no reason for the branch to shift it! He also made it clear that he will enter the branch only after the door was restored to the original position!

Hearing the commotion outside, the Manager Shenoy came out of his cabin and met the DM. He could immediately make out what the problem was. He requested the DM to accompany him to have coffee in a nearby hotel. He also ordered Kamath (with a wink in his eyes) to restore the door to the original position by the time they came back! Kamath assured him to do the needful.

After having coffee at the hotel, Shenoy drove the car back directly up to the door of the branch. He told the DM that kamath had already replaced the door as ordered by him! The DM was very happy and entered the branch smoothly. He also appreciated Kamath for his prompt action. However, he warned him not to resort to such gimmicks in future!

I found the incident highly hilarious. But I did not want to take Kamath’s words on the face value. I checked it up with another officer called Narayanan in the branch, who had a reputation to ‘speak truth, only truth and nothing but truth!’ He had a personality quite akin to my present friend and dedicated reader Narayanan.  He confirmed the incident. He also added that Kamath had made some value-additions while narrating the incident to me.

My inspection work was proceeding smoothly in the branch. I found the Manager Shenoy respecting the observations made by me and taking immediate steps to rectify the irregularities. I derived a lot of satisfaction out of the recognition accorded to a junior officer like me by a Senior Manager like Shenoy. But all of a sudden I became conscious of one fact. The rate at which Shenoy was rectifying the irregularities was such that I may end up with no observations to make in my final report! There was every possibility that our department may conclude that I had not conducted the inspection properly as I was new to the department. Naturally I thought that I should catch something which Shenoy could not rectify at least till completion of our inspection. I was not to wait for long.

Our bank had a daily collection scheme on the lines of Pigmy deposit of Syndicate Bank. The money would be collected daily at the doorsteps by an agent appointed by the bank. The money would be deposited in the branch on the next working day. At the weekend the depositor would be given a balance confirmation from the branch through the agent. The depositor could call on the branch any time and close the deposit after/before maturity or take a loan against the deposit.

While granting the loans, a lien against the deposit was to be noted boldly in red ink in the deposit account in the ledger. Otherwise when the depositor closes the deposit, bank may not recover the loan as the granting of the same is not known to the person closing the deposit. Of course the depositors were very much aware that they had taken a loan and it has to be adjusted. But few people had that much honesty. Most of the depositors used to be totally unknown to the bank and it was difficult to recover the amount as the only recourse was through the agent. Many of such depositors, who were generally small businessmen, would either close shop or leave the place.

In the course of my verification of loans against deposits I found three cases where the deposits had been closed without recovering the loan amount as the lien had not been noted in the ledgers. The amount involved was about 3- 4 thousand rupees in each case.  That was quite a big amount in those day standards.

The moment this was pointed out Shenoy was totally upset. All the three depositors had not opened fresh accounts after closure of the old deposits. The agent involved said that he would try his best to recover the amounts. But it was not easy. In any case it needed time.

My team leader Rao told me that I have to submit a special report to the department as the matter was serious and required to be brought to the notice of the inspection department and the circle office for further follow up. I sent a report immediately. This report brought me to limelight in the department as the junior officers very rarely submitted such reports.

I accompanied Rao to some of the borrowing units for verification of stock. One of these units was located in SEEPZ (Santacruz Electronics Exports Processing Zone). Many of my readers may not be aware that the idea of SEZ (Special Economic Zone) is not at all new as SEEPZ was established as far back as in 1973 in Bombay. The units located in SEEPZ had to export their products in entirety as no local sales were allowed. These units got special benefits by way of tax and duty exemptions. The imports were totally duty free. An interesting fact was even though SEEPZ carried the name of Santacruz, the location had nothing to do with Santacruz. It was actually located in Andheri.

My marriage date had been fixed during the first week of September. I had to discontinue the inspection of Andheri branch at the fag-end of our programme. I left for my village bidding good bye to Rao, my team leader. That was the last inspection I did with Rao as my team leader.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
15th May, 2009

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