Friday, March 28, 2014

My Days South - Episode No.13

As mentioned by me earlier, the Senior Manager Kudva had his cabin in the main branch at the MG Road, while our Corporate Cell was located at the Church Street at a walking distance from the branch. I took the company official to him for taking him to the unit for the stock verification. It was obvious to me that Kudva had received instructions from the Head Office to release the limit at any cost. Even though he was trying to make it a routine job, the pressure under which he was acting could not be hidden.
I should mention here that there was a difference between his attitude and our attitudes (me and the other two officers). Kudva had been posted to our prestigious branch with a clear indication that he would leave the branch only on promotion to the selection grade. He was very ambitious at that stage and he knew it was very important to follow the instructions of HO even at the cost of overlooking certain basic norms at his personal risk. He was indeed in a catch 22 situation. He had to somehow release the limit to the party and he was trying to convince himself that what he was doing was perfectly alright.
However, I and the other two officers were quite sure that the account was likely to land us in problem sooner or later. We had no illusions about the honesty of the party. We knew that the enhanced limit was being thrust on us by unknown hands in HO and we had decided not to deviate from the procedures even at the cost of our future promotions. I also thought that as I was not a party to the enhancement recommendation, I would be out of trouble if the enhanced limits were released after the stock inspection by Kudva himself.
But Kudva was a very shrewd person. As he was stepping into the vehicle along with the company official he saw me going back to the Corporate Cell. He suddenly gestured to me to stop. He requested me to join him in the vehicle. I immediately developed a feeling that I was being trapped. But there was no way I could refuse his request. I got into the vehicle much against my wishes.
We were at the corporate office of the company within a short time. The MD of the company was all smiles on seeing us. We were taken to the unit for stock verification. Kudva started asking all sorts of questions to the official who took us around and physically showed the stock items as listed in the statement submitted to the branch. All the items were supposed to be computer hardware items about which we had very little exposure in those days. Kudva also verified the purchase invoices and appeared to be fully convinced of the genuineness of the stock declared in the statement.
We left the place and came back to the branch. Kudva certified the statement for having inspected the stock as provided for in the statement itself. As the CC limit exceeded Rs10 lakh, a copy of the statement duly certified was also sent to the Large Borrowal Accounts Section at the Circle Office. Later Kudva also signed the stock inspection register which was maintained by us meticulously. Basing on the inspection certificate the limit was released by us and advised to the main branch where the operative accounts were being maintained.
The company withdrew the money from the CC account over a period of time. The role of our Corporate Cell was limited to advising the limit to the branch. Further monitoring was done at the branch only. Subsequent two inspections of the stock were conducted by the two other officers working under me. The inspection was done quarterly as permitted in the sanction.
I had mentioned earlier that an imported consignment of the company had been seized by the Customs Authority. The case was handed over by the customs to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). An officer from CBI visited our branch for investigation. He could not find any irregularity in the matter of opening the letter of credit by our branch. He gave the branch a clean chit.
All the three corporate accounts of the party started showing sickness after some time. The supply bills remained overdue. The activities came to a standstill at the outstation units also. We were asked to get the stock at the Bangalore unit valued by an outside professional. The party also agreed for such valuation. We fervently hoped that once the valuation of the stock was done by the professional, the branch may be out of trouble.
But the party went on delaying access to the valuer to conduct his valuation. Ultimately he had to give up. In the meanwhile a special inspection of overdue supply bills was conducted by the inspection department. The inspector came to the conclusion that the bills discounted were mostly accommodation bills.
While submitting his report, the inspector also made a special mention that the Bangalore unit had been sanctioned substantial enhancement in the CC limit recently. He specifically mentioned that the enhanced limit was released on the basis of stock inspection conducted by the Senior Manager Kudva.
This remark made Kudva shaky as he knew he had certified the stock under pressure from the Head Office. He suddenly remembered that I had also visited the unit along with him as requested by him. He desperately wanted to involve me at that stage somehow. One evening he came to the Corporate Cell and told me that he had just met the DGM at the Circle Office to discuss the position of the three accounts. He also told me that the DGM had advised him to take my signature in the stock statements to prove that the branch had conducted the inspection thoroughly. 
I was really in a catch 22 situation at that time. I knew that I would be in real trouble if I signed the statements at that stage. There was no moral reason for me to sign the statement as it was neither my turn for verification nor I had been convinced about the genuineness of the stock shown to us. It was Kudva who had certified the stock under instructions from the HO.
But Kudva was not going to leave me. He was a man in a hurry. He went in search of the stock statement file in the godown personally. Meanwhile the two officers told me not to sign the statement at any cost. But it was not easy to refuse. I had to work under Kudva at least for some more time. He was sure to harm my interest sooner or later without any mercy.
Kudva came back from the godown with the stock statement file and the godown checking register after some time. He took my signatures in both of them just below his signatures. I got a feeling that I was being trapped. But I was helpless. I could only pray God to protect me. However Kudva had forgotten about one thing. We had sent a copy of the stock statement to the Circle Office, which carried only his signature.
All the three accounts became totally sticky thereafter. The party refused to allow stock inspections at its units in Goa and Hubli and the units closed down fully. The activity at Bangalore also came to a standstill. The party gave several assurances to the bank. He used to say that everything would become normal once the imported consignment was released by the customs. That never happened, however. A special team from HO conducted an in depth study of the three accounts and submitted a report to HO.
Meanwhile the then CMD retired and a new CMD took charge. He decided to handover the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The two outstation units had huge overdues as compared to the Bangalore unit as they enjoyed higher limits. However, quite surprisingly, only the file of the Bangalore unit was handed over to CBI for investigation. 
I was transferred to a branch near Raichur for semi-urban service on my promotion as Senior Manager. I worked there for three years. Just before I completed my third year, I received summons to appear before the CBI investigator at Bangalore in connection with the subject account.
------- (To be continued)

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