Despite cabinet’s nod, govt fails to appoint ZTBL head

Delay has affected bank’s performance as loan disbursement falls

Shahbaz Rana September 20, 2019
Commuters walk past a bank sign along a road. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The government has been unable to appoint a permanent head of the country’s specialised agriculture sector bank due to various lobbies working to undo the federal cabinet’s decision to appoint Shahbaz Jameel as the new president.

The government’s inability to appoint new Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) president since October last year has contributed to the downward slide of the bank, whose loan disbursements and recoveries have dropped, showed statistics of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

Over two months ago, the cabinet approved the appointment of Jameel as president and chief executive officer of ZTBL for three years. He had been shortlisted from a list of 74 candidates.

However, despite a lapse of more than two months, the SBP has not given its decision on the Fitness and Propriety Test (FPT) of Jameel, the central bank confirmed to The Express Tribune on Thursday.

The SBP’s FPT clearance is mandatory for the appointment of heads of commercial banks.

SBP chief spokesman Abid Qamar stressed that there was no hurdle in the way of FPT clearance process.

“The FPT involves assessment of credentials of proposed appointees in light of applicable laws, rules and regulations and it involves enhanced due diligence including feedback from relevant internal and external authorities,” stated Qamar. “Once the process is completed, the outcome is conveyed to the bank concerned.”

Out of the 74 candidates vying for the post of ZTBL president, a ministerial committee had unanimously shortlisted three names - Adnan Ghani, Shahbaz Jameel and acting ZTBL president Sheikh Amanullah. In February this year, the cabinet approved the appointment of Ghani as president but he did not take charge.

Subsequently, on July 16, the cabinet approved Jameel’s name, who was second in the merit order as per recommendations of the selection committee.

Sources said certain lobbies were creating hurdles in the way of clearance of Jameel’s name. These lobbies sent wrong information to the departments concerned, which was causing a delay.

These lobbies claimed that Jameel was not a suitable candidate and his performance was bad at the Bank of Khyber (BOK). However, the reality was that the BOK board had ranked Jameel in Grade A.

The lobbyists were also propagating that Jameel switched many jobs and was asked to resign from everywhere. However, this was also contrary to the track record of his jobs, which was available with the SBP.

Another allegation against him was that the Peshawar office of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was investigating a case of hiring incompetent people in BOK. However, the reality was that NAB Peshawar had been doing the audit of human resource and jobs for years, which pertained to the period when Jameel had not joined the bank.

To a question about whether lobbies in the SBP and ZTBL were working against Jameel, the central bank spokesman said there were no vested lobbies in the SBP. “The SBP has no role in the appointment of president/CEO of any bank. The federal government makes the appointment of the president/CEO of ZTBL, which is subject to the SBP’s FPT clearance,” he added.

“The SBP is presently processing the FPT of the proposed person in line with the applicable laws, rules, and regulations and will communicate the outcome to the said bank once the process is concluded,” said Qamar.

The bank’s administrative affairs are being looked after by acting president Sheikh Amanullah, but its financial performance is deteriorating. The bank has not published its annual and quarterly financial statements since March 2017 due to the federal government’s failure to complete the board of directors of the bank.

Data maintained by the SBP showed that ZTBL had performed poorly as it disbursed only Rs71.5 billion in loans to farmers in the last fiscal year, down Rs11.7 billion or 14% over the preceding year. The disbursements were 71.5% of the annual target of Rs100 billion.

Not only that, the recovery of principal loans declined. The bank recovered Rs75.4 billion worth of principal loans in the last financial year, down 6% or Rs4.8 billion year-on-year.

Qamar said the FPT process involved enhanced due diligence, which was a time-consuming process and varied according to the nature of the appointment.

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