"Garage" service from Pramuka
By Quintus Perera
Can you imagine a bank servicing its customers in its garage amidst dusty parked cars?
This is exactly what happened, last Wednesday to customers who visited the head office of the failed Pramuka Savings and Development Bank (PSDB) at Kollupitiya in response to a public notice by the Central Bank. The banking regulator had said the bank would be open every Wednesday for the limited purpose of loan repayments.
Nobody was permitted to use the front entrance except the side garage entrance. At the side entrance the rusted collapsible door was closed with a padlock inside, where two security guards were seated.
When a customer arrived, security men checked his credentials, unlocked the gate, took him inside and locked the gate again. Inside the garage among the large number of vehicles, purported to be used by Pramuka there were four rusted iron chairs and two plastic chairs. There were two other smartly dressed Central Bank security guards seated along a table with several telephones, recording the purpose of the visit.
The visitor had to wait sometimes several hours until an officer came down from an upper floor to attend to business. A.H.A. Mendis, Director/General Manager of the bank said eight persons came to inquire about their outstanding loans, but no cash was received. He said that they were given the details about the amounts to be paid and the calculations of accrued interest.
He said that along with him and Bandula Ranasinghe, Deputy General Manager (Credit), there were 30 Pramuka staff. He also said that there were six Central Bank officials working with their team led by W.W. Weeraratne, Examiner, Bank Supervision Division.
In some cases, Mendis was seen coming down to the garage to talk to customers while on other occasions all three - Mendis, Ranasinghe and Weeraratne came down.
CID officials were also seen going through the files of Pramuka at the basement. The Sunday Times FT learns that Pramuka staff had worked the previous day too and also probably would be working around three days per week in the future.
Several customers who had paid up all their dues came to recover the collateral. The chairman of a company waited for nearly two-an-a-half hours but was disappointed with the answer that officials were going through his file and a settlement would be arrived at on a later date.
Irate Pramuka customers told The Sunday Times FT that dealing with them in the garage was the most humiliating attitude that one could expect from the Central Bank, now in charge of Pramuka.
A company director asked "why cannot we be treated in a more gentlemanly manner in one of the rooms of the Bank? This indifference and careless planning will dissuade borrowers to pay back". "Mind you," he said, "do you expect company directors to discuss business in a garage like some underworld gangster?"
Although there were 30 Pramuka staffer and six from the Central Bank, they were unable to clear just three or four collateral cases.
K.C. Vignarajah, Chairman, Pramuka Bank Restructuring Committee said they have still not obtained a reply from the Central Bank to their request for a response to their call for information to present a proposal to restructure Pramuka.
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