Govt amended Grameen Bank Ordinance ‘just to appoint the MD’, says Muhith

The Daily Star August 7, 2012

The National Board of Revenue yesterday launched a hunt for tax-related information on Grameen Bank’s 54 associated but legally independent entities.

The NBR asked one of its tax zones to provide it with income tax records of the bank’s associated organisations, an NBR official said yesterday, a week after the Grameen Bank Commission sent a letter to the tax authority.

The cabinet last week asked the finance ministry to find out whether the bank’s founder Prof Muhammad Yunus fetched any foreign currencies from abroad under the wage earner scheme facility “as a government official”.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday had a meeting with Grameen Bank Commission Chairman Mamunur Rashid.

Muhith briefed the commission on the government’s expectations from the microcredit organisation, he told reporters, without elaboration, after the meeting at the Secretariat.

The minister said the government moved to amend the Grameen Bank Ordinance 1983 “just to appoint the managing director of the bank.”

Muhith said the government is vetting the changes to the ordinance that governs the Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation.

Once it is done, the ordinance will be promulgated, as parliament is now in recess.

The meeting also discussed a plan to appoint an audit firm to look into the relationship between the Grameen Bank and its associated organisations, and whether these organisations borrowed any money from the bank, said sources.

The government plans to appoint the auditor so that the commission’s report on the bank and its activities is accepted at home and abroad.

The government claims that those organisations are part of the Grameen Bank and had been set up with the money from the mother organisation.

Prof Yunus, who set up those organisations to solve social problems, and his legal advisers say that all those organisations are legally independent and have no links with the Grameen Bank.

On May 16 this year, the government set up the four-member commission to review the activities of the Grameen Bank and its associated organisations, and make recommendations on how to run the organisations.

The commission, which will review the regulatory institutions and mechanism of the Grameen Bank, has been asked to submit a report within three months. It will also recommend ways to bring the bank under the purview of state regulatory agencies.

The government plans to amend the ordinance to reduce the powers of the bank’s board and give more authority to its chairman to pick the bank’s managing director. The cabinet division last week approved the changes.

The post of the bank’s managing director fell vacant after Prof Yunus resigned in May last year following his removal from the bank he had set up three decades ago to take financial services to the poor.