The government has been recruiting party men as directors to the boards of state-owned banks in violation administrative rules.

Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal is appointing directors on political consideration.

"The government is taking the wrong steps by appointing party men as the directors of the banks. The entire bank sector has to bear the brunt for this. Professionals and skilled people should be appointed as directors," Bangladesh Bank former deputy governor Khandaker Ibrahim Khaled told Prothom Alo.

There are 30 resumés of party men at the finance ministry.

Sources said current and former leaders of Awami League, Jubo League, Swechchhasebak League and Chhatra League have been visiting the financial institutions division of the finance ministry. Some are lobbying over phone.

The government is taking the wrong steps by appointing party men as the directors of the banks. The entire bank sector has to bear the brunt for this. Professionals and skilled people should be appointed as directors.
Bangladesh Bank former deputy governor Khandaker Ibrahim Khaled

However, economists, chartered accountants, financial market, monetary policy and financial management experts, former bankers, private sector business representatives, and at least one professional woman have to be recruited in the board, according to a finance ministry circular published on 12 April 2009.

Flouting the rules, Rajib Parvez, assistant secretary of Awami League central finance and planning sub-committee, was recruited as director to the BASIC Bank on 22 March 2020.

While recruiting him, he was identified as founder and executive director of 'Governance Policy Explore Centre', but no website of this organisation was found. The Facebook page of this organisation has not been updated since 2017.

Rajib Parvez sought nomination from Patuakhali-1 constituency in the 11th parliamentary election. He launched a campaign in his constituency, but the party did not give him nomination.

Similarly Awami League's international affairs committee assistant secretary KMN Manjurul Haque wanted nomination from Gopalganj-1. He launched a campaign, but failed to get nomination.

This former Chhatra League leader was appointed as director of Agrani Bank on 9 September 2019. Earlier, he was the director of this bank.

Although the party men were not given nomination for the parliamentary elections, they were appeased with appointments as directors of the state-owned banks.

In 2009, directors were recruited in the same way.

Directors were recruited in the banks on political consideration after Abul Maal Abdul Muhith had become the finance minister in 2009. There were allegations of financial scams in the banking sector. When he became the finance minister in 2014 again, he recruited former bureaucrats and bankers as the directors instead of party men.

There is no training for the directors. There is no instance of punishment if they are found to be involved in lobbying and taking bribes.

While secretary of the financial institutions division, Younusur Rahman took an initiative for training, but the move came to a halt when Md Asadul Islam joined as the secretary.

The Awami League government randomly recruited party men as directors of the bank between 2009 and 2015.

Some of them include Jatiya Party former leader Sheikh Abdul Hye Bachchu, Mahila Awami League leader Jannat Ara, Awami League former leaders Nagibul Islam, Saimum Sarwar Kamol, Mahbubur Rahman Bhuiyan, Jubo League leader Khandoker Jahangir Kabir, former Chhatra League leaders Bolram Poddar, Shuvas Singha Roy, Shahjada Mohiuddin, Jakir Ahmed and Abdus Sabur.

Financial scams of different business entities and banks including Hall-Mark, BASIC Bank, Bismillah Group, Annon Tex and Crescent Group surfaced during the period.

When asked about the recruitment of party men as directors of banks, financial institutions division secretary Md Asadul Islam advised the Prothom Alo correspondent to talk to the additional secretary of the division ABM Ruhul Azad.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Ruhul Azad said, "Directors are being recruited after scrutiny. If there are any allegations against anyone, Bangladesh Bank can inform the Anti-Corruption Commission."


Directors above the accountability

Bangladesh Bank observer Lila Rashid recently raised allegations against Agrani Bank chairman Zaid Bakth, saying that he took decisions ignoring the opinion of the directors. When the allegation was raised on 17 August, the central bank investigated the matter and found the allegations to be true.

BASIC Bank chairman Abdul Hye Bachchu surpassed all in corruption. Late bank director Rezaur Rahman filed a complaint with the financial institutions division about anti-bank activities of Bachchu . But the division removed the director.

Financial institutions division joint secretary Kamrunnahar Ahmed was the director at BASIC Bank for entire five years during the tenure of Abdul Hye Bachchu. Questions were raised about her role. But she had no problem to become additional secretary.

Former Bangladesh Bank deputy governor Khandaker Ibrahim Khaled said former reputed bankers, lawyers, good businessmen, accountants and neutral researchers should be appointed as directors of banks.

The accountability of directors has to be ensured, Khaled added.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.