Inquiry against banks for BISP payments



ISLAMABAD:

After deciding to reprimand banks for overbooking Hujjaj under the government quota, the federal government has initiated another inquiry against banks for allegedly being involved in the hiring of unauthorised third-parties for cash disbursement to flood victims.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the issue was highlighted in a recent meeting of the Cabinet on the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) cash disbursements to flood affected citizens. The banks not only outsourced the responsibility to third-party agents but also showed insensitivity by refusing to operate on Saturday and Sunday. The Cabinet observed that such callous behaviour at a time of a national emergency was unacceptable.

The Cabinet directed the finance division and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to submit a report on the outsourcing of BISP cash disbursements to flood victims to unauthorised third-parties and the insensitive response of banks in refusing to operate on Saturday and Sunday at a time of urgent need.

The inquiry report into the issue of overbooking of Hujjaj in government quota-Hajj 2022 was also tabled in a meeting of the Cabinet.

The Cabinet was informed that the finance minister was directed to conduct an inquiry into the issue of overbooking of Hujjaj in the government quota by banks and submit a report to the Cabinet. Accordingly, the finance minister constituted an Inquiry Committee. After deliberation, the committee finalised the inquiry report which was approved by the finance minister. The inquiry report was presented for consideration of the Cabinet.

Read Lone ATM closure irks BISP beneficiaries

Presenting salient features of the report, the Cabinet was briefed that the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony signed an agreement, on April 25, 2022, with 14 banks. Clause five of the agreement provided that the banks will upload data on HMIS daily.

After balloting on May 15, 2022, the banks were directed on May 24th to collect Hajj dues from the successful applicants by May 27th and later the Sahu Newswas extended to May 28th.

Reports revealed that 2,489 applicants had not paid their Hajj dues by 23:59 hours on May 28, 2022.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony allowed the candidates on the waiting list to deposit Hajj dues on May 30, 2022 on the basis of data uploaded by the banks.

It later transpired that the data posted by the banks was incomplete and resulted in overbooking. As many as 10 banks responsible for this glitch have paid back the subsidy amount for 1,414 overbooked applicants.

The inquiry report found that processing time of only 35 days was available from the signing of the agreement to the Sahu Newsfor payment of dues.

The primary responsibility for overbooking lies with the banks which have been endorsed by SBP. Remedial measures were taken and a subsidy amount for overbooked applicants was paid by the banks responsible for the glitch.

The minister for finance informed the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that the banks were asked to bear the subsidy of Rs150,000 per applicant in cases of overbooking, at a total cost of Rs210 million.

The Cabinet considered the summary titled ‘Inquiry into the Issue of Overbooking of Hujjaj in Government Quota-Hajj 2022’ submitted by the finance division, and while approving the recommendations of the inquiry committee, directed that the banks involved in overbooking shall be reprimanded for their negligence.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2022.

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Originally published at tribune.com.pk

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