Confusion, panic order of the day | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 17, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:45 AM, March 17, 2016

Confusion, panic order of the day

BB spends its first day without a head after Atiur's resignation

Confusion and panic was the order of the day at the Bangladesh Bank yesterday, a day after its governor Atiur Rahman stepped down and two deputy governors were removed hastily amid strong criticism over the central bank's handling of the $101 million cyber theft.

“It is rare in the central bank's history that a governor and two deputy governors left office in such a manner. A vacuum has been created,” said a senior official of the BB. 

Atiur tendered his resignation to the prime minister on Tuesday following pressure from the government after seven years at the helm. But the removal of two deputy governors -- Md Abul Quasem and Nazneen Sultana -- was completely unexpected.

As a result, there was uncertainty as to who will fill in whose shoes. There was a sense of panic, too, as a finance ministry official said on Tuesday that the ministry would soon ask the BB to remove its two executive directors and two general managers. It was not clear who these four might be.     

Normally, the deputy governor-1 opens the mails and other correspondence sent for the governor when the chief of the BB is not working. Other deputy governors who oversee various departments each signs papers on behalf of the governor.

Quasem, who was the deputy governor-1, came to know about his removal through television news on Tuesday afternoon, but not through official channel. 

As of yesterday evening, the BB did not receive any letter regarding his contract termination.

Quasem came to the BB in the morning and was there for two hours. Nazneen Sultana did not come at all.

Later through an internal arrangement, the BB decided that deputy governor-2 Abu Hena Mohammad Razee Hassan will work as the deputy governor-1. It was also decided that the files of the departments that were overseen by Quasem and Sultana would not reach the deputy governors and rather stay with executive directors of the respective departments.

However, the executive directors under the two deputy governors will not make any important decisions, said a BB official.

The departure of Atiur was also not in line with the BB history. Normally, irrespective of the political parties in power, a governor sees out his tenure even if there is any political changeover. Besides, a successor is named before the retirement of the outgoing governor.

Since 1972, eight governors came and went before Atiur took office on May 30, 2009. Every time, save for once in 1998, the new governor took office on the day or the day after his predecessor left office.  

But Atiur's successor, Fazle Kabir, chairman of Sonali Bank and a former finance secretary who spent 34 years serving the government, was named on Tuesday. He is in the US now. 

Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters yesterday that Kabir would return on March 18 and join the BB two days later. 

A career bureaucrat, Kabir was appointed for four years, said a circular from the public administration ministry yesterday.

Coming down of sword on the chief of an organisation when something serious goes wrong is not uncommon globally.

But the removal of Quasem and Sultana came as a shock to their colleagues, a number of BB officials said.  

Both of them heard the news on TV and had no clue as to what was happening.

The government decided to cancel their contracts for their “failure” to prevent the cyber theft from the BB account with the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Hackers stole the money around midnight of February 5 by penetrating the BB system through a malware. 

Quasem's tenure was due to end in August and Sultana's in July.

Atiur resigned four months before his scheduled retirement. In his farewell press conference on Tuesday, he said, “The exit could have been much better. If there were a farewell, the pains of the last seven years would have lessened to some extent.”

Yesterday, he returned to teaching at the department of development studies of Dhaka University where he was a professor for three years before joining the BB.

CID STARTS PROBE

On the first day of its inquiry, the Criminal Investigation Department yesterday quizzed some central bank officials and collected various information from computers, reports UNB.

Briefing reporters at the CID headquarters, its Special Superintendent (organised crime) Abdullahel Baki said the information gathered from the officials and employees would be scrutinised to ascertain if anyone of them was involved in the heist.  

The investigators, however, did not question the BB officials as suspects. They rather interrogated them to gain information that might help crack the case.

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