On March 10, United Bank of India (UBI) got a Rs 1,000 crore lifeline from the finance ministry, ending three weeks of uncertainty at the bank as its net non-performing assets have touched 162 per cent of its net worth at the end of the third quarter FY14.
As the bank’s operations and processes have come under the scanner, the role of UBI’s independent directors is also being looked into.
In the past four years, the UBI board included a politician, a media manager, a businessman, and a former chief vigilance commissioner, but none from the banking sector.
These independent directors were all appointed by the finance ministry in its capacity as the largest shareholder and also to safeguard public interest.
Of them Srenik Sett, who served on the board for three years between October 6, 2010 and October 5, 2013, was the campaign manager for former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from Jangipur constituency in West Bengal.
Sett runs a company called Good Image (P) Limited and also is the chairman of an NGO, Allsports Foundation. Once Mukherjee became the finance minister in the UPA-II government, the ministry appointed Sett to the board of directors of UBI in 2010.
Emails and text messages sent to Sett from The Indian Express went unanswered.
Another director, Hiranya Bora, who has been on the board since April 5, 2011 is a political leader from Assam from the Indian National Congress. The bank describes him as an active social worker without reference to any party affiliation.
Kiran B Vadodaria, a businessman from Gujarat with interests spread across media, infrastructure and real estate too was nominated by the government in November 2011 for a period of three years.
Vadodaria is the managing director of Sambhaav group listed in both NSE and BSE, and is also the chief of Wise TV that plans to provide live television feed on all Gujarat state transport buses.
In September 2013 the ministry also appointed Pratyush Sinha, chief vigilance commissioner during 2006-2010, as shareholder director on the UBI board.
During his tenure Sinha had conducted several high-profile investigations such as allocation of 2G spectrum and the Commonwealth Games.
The latest to join the board is Renuka Muttoo, a former IPS officer with extensive experience in handling VIP security.
Within four quarters the bank has seen its net NPA quadruple from Rs 1,416 crore in Dec 2012 to Rs 5,629 crore in December 2013. The bank’s losses mounted to Rs 1,238 crore at the end of Dec 2013.