12:50 AM, May 23, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:10 PM, May 23, 2013

Grameen Bank Commission

Target 48 entities

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Md Fazlur Rahman

Target 48 entities

Many legally independent organisations bearing Grameen names are being forced to supply documents to the Grameen Bank Commission although they are not part of the microcredit organisation.
Officials of the organisations said the government-formed commission had recently sent them letters, demanding certified copies of the minutes of the board meetings and the annual audit reports since their inception.
The three-member panel has sent letters to almost all the 48 associated organisations of Grameen Bank, said officials familiar with the development.
The entities that were served with letters include Grameenphone, Grameen Telecom, Grameen Telecom Trust, Grameen Shakti, Grameen Kalyan, Grameen Fund, Grameen Udyog, Grameen Shamogree, Grameen Knitwear and Grameen Danone Foods.
In the case of Grameen Udyog, the commission instructed the organisation to provide by today the certified copies of minutes of the board meetings and annual audit reports.
"Otherwise, legal steps will be taken," warned the Grameen Bank Commission letter.
In the letter, the commission accused Grameen Udyog of disrupting its investigation by not providing it with information.
Officials of some other organisations have admitted to The Daily Star that they had received similar letters.
All these come as the commission begins inquiring into the organisations with Grameen names to ascertain their legal and financial ties with Grameen Bank and whether they have met the goals they were set up for.
"The commission has been asking for documents repeatedly since the beginning of the year," a senior official of an organisation told this newspaper, requesting anonymity.
Another official said the commission was using the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1956 in extracting information and documents from the organisations.
"The commission is claiming that these organisations are part of Grameen Bank. So they are asking for information and documents as per terms of references. But we are not part of Grameen Bank. We are legally independent entities," said the official.
Many associated organisations are already supplying the commission with documents, he added.
Legal experts say the commission cannot extract information, and the way the commission has sent letters to the associated organisations asking for documents amounts to using force.
A senior lawyer familiar with the development said the initial terms of references did not allow the commission to investigate the associated organisations. Later, the terms of references were amended to allow the panel to ask for information and audit reports.
The government formed the commission last year to review the activities of Grameen Bank and the organisations that bear Grameen names and make recommendations on how to run the organisations.
One of the terms of reference of the commission is to review the purpose, legal status and operation of the institutions, companies and enterprises bearing Grameen names.
The commission will also see why they were set up and whether they had served the purpose. It will also identify their legal and financial ties with Grameen Bank.
According to the commission's interim report, the body will present a scheme for ensuring benefits for Grameen Bank and its borrowers and owners from the operations of the entities.
The scheme will "establish" transparency and accountability in these entities.
The government maintains that the profits and not-for-profits associated organisations are part of Grameen Bank, and any profit from the organisations should go to the bank's 84 lakh beneficiaries.
But Prof Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, has all along said these are all legally independent entities and he set them up in his personal capacity as part of his lifelong mission to eradicate poverty.
Neither the commission chairman nor its members could be reached for comments.
The holdings of the government and the borrowers of Grameen Bank were 60 percent and 40 percent respectively when the bank was set up in 1983, according to a Grameen Bank Review Committee report published in 2011.
The holding of the borrowers was raised to 75 percent and that of the government came down to 25 percent following an amendment to the Grameen Bank Ordinance in 1986.
The government's share further came down to below four percent as the government has not subscribed to its holding, the report added.

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