Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Days as an Auditor - Episode-15

It was another opportunity for me to travel to Mangalore by air, this time on an official visit. Our bank had about ten branches in Mangalore. I had been assigned a new branch located in Car Street (Ratha Beedhi). The branch had just completed one year and already earned a very good name in the locality under the leadership of a manager by name Achyutharaya Kamath. Kamath was an energetic middle-aged person and was in full command of the branch. When he came to know that I had arrived from Bombay, he started telling the customers I had been specially sent from Bombay to study the reasons (case study) for the excellent performance of the branch! Mangalore had a divisional office of our bank and also had an inspection team headed by a Manager called Prabhu. Kamath’s presumption had some strength in the fact that Prabhu was also unaware of our programme till I landed at the branch.

Kamath was particular that his branch should be rated ‘A’ in inspection. He was supported by the Divisional Manager, who had come on a visit to the branch and told me that the he was also expecting such a gradation. By the time I was half-way through, I found that indeed the branch deserved the top gradation. Ultimately I recommended ‘A’ gradation for the branch.

I could comfortably complete the full inspection in about a month. I used to be with my wife and new born son during the weekends. But just on the verge of completion, I suddenly fell sick. Actually I had a programme to visit Mysore to attend the marriage of my friend and ex-colleague KNV Murthy. But as I had a high fever I could not undertake that journey. I wrote a letter to KNV expressing my inability. But he never excused me for my failure!

I had two other rural branches to inspect – Brahmavara and Tekkatte. They were located on the Mangalore-Bombay HighWay (NH-17) between Udupi and Kundapura. I had a brother-in-law (my wife’s elder brother) in Kundapura. He was a reader in economics in the local college. I landed at their house along with my sickness. But my stay with them was so comfortable that I recovered within a short time – thanks to the care taken by the couple.

The branches assigned to me were very comfortable for operation as there were excellent bus facilities on the national highway. My other Bengali colleague Arnab Das joined me and together we completed the two branches. It was for the first time that I was visiting the rural branches. There was lot of respect for the bank staff in rural places in those days. The fact that we came from Bombay also made a difference! It was around January 1979 and I came back to Bombay along with my family, my son joining us as the additional member.
------o----- --o--- -----o------o-------o-----o------o------o-------o------o-------
There were some major changes in the inspection set up in Bombay. The inspection follow up section in the Marshall building was wound up and the work was shifted to head office in Bangalore. We lost our only office in Bombay. The co-ordination of various teams headed by managers was assigned to a manager stationed in our Fort branch. This manager was also given the role of a concurrent auditor at the said branch. The post of a concurrent auditor was created in Fort, Fort market, Tamarind Lane and Worli branches.

The Head Office also took over the work of assigning the programmes for the team managers. This created a real problem for the teams. So far while assigning the branches, the residences of the concerned team members were taken into account. The idea was to allot the branch nearest to the residence. This ensured minimum journey period and savings in travel expenditure to the bank. But for a person sitting in head office, the geography of Bombay was quite unfamiliar. An attempt made to familiarize the concerned officer failed miserably.  The officer had been briefed by somebody that Kandivli and Borivli were close to each other. On the same analogy, he allotted Dombivli to an officer staying in Borivli, little knowing that one was on the Western Railway and the other in Central Railway!

The monthly travel bills of the inspecting officers used to be at the minimum level. All along we had been claiming only monthly first class train pass charges as local conveyance. We were not claiming any fare from the Railway station to the branch. For the branches which were to be covered by bus, we used to claim only bus fare. The minimum bus fare used to be only 20 paise. We used to send a monthly bill for as low an amount as Rs10 on many occasions.

The credit for improving the earning capacity of the inspecting officers in Bombay goes to a gentleman called Pundalik Pai! Till his arrival in Bombay as a Manager, nobody knew that they were eligible for claiming taxi/auto fare for local journey. But if you thought that he enlightened the other officers in the matter, you are totally mistaken! Rather Mr. Pai kept his cards close to his chest! While he went on claiming the taxi fare and got the reimbursement, he kept it confidential by not revealing it to his colleagues.

In the normal course an officer posted to inspection department for the first time tries to get a briefing about the nature of his job and the responsibilities. That is what most of us did on being posted to the department. But Pai was a practical man. He really meant business! Immediately after knowing about his posting to inspection department Bombay, Pai straightaway went to Head Office and met the person in-charge of TA bills. He collected all the relevant information from him about claiming the maximum TA, while posted in Bombay. While he took his own time to understand the nature of inspection duties, he was already a master as far as TA bills were concerned!

The result was - his account used to receive a credit of Rs300-Rs400 every month against his actual expenditure of much less than Rs100, even with a first class monthly pass! All other managers/officers continued to claim the meager amounts being the actuals.

But Pai could not hold on to his secret of ‘money-making’ for long. One of the officers of the branch where Pai was having his account developed some curiosity. The branch also had the accounts of two more inspecting officers. The officer enquired with them why they were not getting similar credits. These officers checked up the matter with a team-mate of Pai. The said team-mate managed to go through a TA bill of Pai secretly. Finally the cat was out of the bag! The news spread fast. All the officers were happy to follow the footsteps of Pai. But there was a hitch. The officer passing the TA bill at the head office witnessed a sudden spurt in the bill amounts of the Bombay officers. He smelt a rat. An instruction was issued stating that the taxi/auto fare can be claimed only from the nearest Railway station. It was also made mandatory that if a team is inspecting a branch, the entire team should travel in a single taxi and claim fare accordingly. But Pai had made his name. He had etched his name permanently in the history of Bombay inspection department! The Bombay inspecting officers remained permanently indebted to him!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
4th August 2009

No comments: