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Recently RBI has come up with RBI/2022-23/15 DOR.STR.REC.4/21.04.048/2022-23 dated April 1, 2022. Like other previous circulars RBI has reiterated the IRAC (Income Recognition, Asset Classification) and Provisioning norms in the circular. Circular mention auditor’s role in case of willful defaulters as mentioned under RBI circular DBR. No. CID. BC.57/20.16.003/2014-15 dated 01.07.2014 which on willful defaulter.

Banks trust Chartered Accountants the most and for the same reason various certificates and reports of Chartered Accountants are accepted as proof of correct figures. In this sequence Financial Statement audited by Chartered Accountants are valued for their true and fair view of the state of affairs. There may be cases where customer of the Bank not engage constructively with his lender by defaulting in timely repayment of dues while having ability to pay, thwarting lenders’ efforts for recovery of their dues by not providing necessary information sought, denying access to assets financed / collateral securities, obstructing sale of securities, etc. In effect, Thus customer emerges as non-cooperative borrower who deliberately stone walls legitimate efforts of the lenders to recover their dues. Auditors of such customers are made responsible as follows:-

29.2 In terms of our Master Circular on Willful Defaulters mentioned above, in case any falsification of accounts on the part of the borrowers is observed by the banks / FIs, and if it is observed that the auditors were negligent or deficient in conducting the audit, banks should lodge a formal complaint against the auditors of the borrowers with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to enable the ICAI to examine and fix accountability of the auditors. RBI reiterates these instructions for strict compliance. Pending disciplinary action by ICAI, the complaints may also be forwarded to the RBI (Department of Banking Supervision, Central Office) and IBA for records. IBA would circulate the names of the CA firms against whom many complaints have been received amongst all banks who should consider this aspect before assigning any work to them. RBI would also share such information with other financial sector regulators/Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA)/Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

A non-cooperative borrower is one who does not engage constructively with his lender by defaulting in timely repayment of dues while having ability to pay, thwarting lenders’ efforts for recovery of their dues by not providing necessary information sought, denying access to assets financed / collateral securities, obstructing sale of securities, etc. In effect, a non-cooperative borrower is a defaulter who deliberately stone walls legitimate efforts of the lenders to recover their dues.

For the said purpose term “Wilfull Default and Diversion & Siphoning of Funds” are defined under circular DBR.No.CID.BC.57/20.16.003/2014-15 dated July 1, 2014 as follows:-

“wilful default” would be deemed to have occurred if any of the following events is noted:-

(a) The unit has defaulted in meeting its payment / repayment obligations to the lender even when it has the capacity to honour the said obligations.

(b) The unit has defaulted in meeting its payment / repayment obligations to the lender and has not utilised the finance from the lender for the specific purposes for which finance was availed of but has diverted the funds for other purposes.

(c) The unit has defaulted in meeting its payment / repayment obligations to the lender and has siphoned off the funds so that the funds have not been utilised for the specific purpose for which finance was availed of, nor are the funds available with the unit in the form of other assets.

(d) The unit has defaulted in meeting its payment / repayment obligations to the lender and has also disposed off or removed the movable fixed assets or immovable property given by him or it for the purpose of securing a term loan without the knowledge of the bank/lender.

Diversion and siphoning of funds The terms “diversion of funds” and “siphoning of funds” should construe to mean the following:-

Diversion of funds, would be construed to include any one of the undernoted occurrences:

(a) utilisation of short-term working capital funds for long-term purposes not in conformity with the terms of sanction;

(b) deploying borrowed funds for purposes / activities or creation of assets other than those for which the loan was sanctioned;

(c) transferring borrowed funds to the subsidiaries / Group companies or other corporates by whatever modalities;

(d) routing of funds through any bank other than the lender bank or members of consortium without prior permission of the lender;

(e) investment in other companies by way of acquiring equities / debt instruments without approval of lenders;

(f) shortfall in deployment of funds vis-à-vis the amounts disbursed / drawn and the difference not being accounted for.

Siphoning of funds, should be construed to occur if any funds borrowed from banks / FIs are utilized for purposes un-related to the operations of the borrower, to the detriment of the financial health of the entity or of the lender. The decision as to whether a particular instance amounts to siphoning of funds would have to be a judgment of the lenders based on objective facts and circumstances of the case. The identification of the wilful default should be made keeping in view the track record of the borrowers and should not be decided on the basis of isolated transactions/incidents. The default to be categorized as wilful must be intentional, deliberate and calculated.

How willful defaulters are identified (Mechanism)

The transparent mechanism should generally include the following:

(a) The evidence of wilful default on the part of the borrowing company and its promoter/whole-time director at the relevant time should be examined by a Committee headed by an Executive Director and consisting of two other senior officers of the rank of GM/DGM.

(b) If the Committee concludes that an event of wilful default has occurred, it shall issue a Show Cause Notice to the concerned borrower and the promoter/whole-time director and call for their submissions and after considering their submissions issue an order recording the fact of wilful default and the reasons for the same. An opportunity should be given to the borrower and the promoter/whole-time director for a personal hearing if the Committee feels such an opportunity is necessary.

(c) The Order of the Committee should be reviewed by another Committee headed by the Chairman / CEO and MD and consisting, in addition, of two independent directors of the Bank and the Order shall become final only after it is confirmed by the said Review Committee.

(d) As regard a non-promoter/non-whole time director, it should be kept in mind that Section 2(60) of the Companies Act, 2013 defines an officer who is in default to mean only the following categories of directors:

(i) Whole-time director

(ii) where there is no key managerial personnel, such director or directors as specified by the Board in this behalf and who has or have given his or their consent in writing to the Board to such specification, or all the directors, if no director is so specified;

(iii) every director, in respect of a contravention of any of the provisions of this Act, who is aware of such contravention by virtue of the receipt by him of any proceedings of the Board or participation in such proceedings and who has not objected to the same, or where such contravention had taken place with his consent or connivance. Therefore, except in very rare cases, a non-whole time director should not be considered as a wilful defaulter unless it is conclusively established that I. he was aware of the fact of wilful default by the borrower by virtue of any proceedings recorded in the Minutes of the Board or a Committee of the Board and has not recorded his objection to the same in the Minutes, or, II. the wilful default had taken place with his consent or connivance. A similar process as detailed in sub paras (a) to (c) above should be followed when identifying a non-promoter/non-whole time director as a wilful defaulter.

For detailed understanding Master circular on Wilful defaulter of RBI may be referred.

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