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‘Due to time constraints, auditors checked only incremental advances’

In a whirlpool: Joy Thomas has not named any auditor in the letter.Emmanual YoginiEmmanual Yogini

The suspended managing director of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank, Joy Thomas, has blamed the auditors for the mess at the bank, accusing them of only “superficially auditing” the books of the now crippled lender due to “time constraints.”

In a five-page letter to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) dated September 21 after a board member blew the lid on the fraud at PMC, which is among the top ten urban cooperative banks, Mr. Thomas has confessed to the role of the top management, including a few board members, in hiding the actual NPA numbers and also the actual exposure to the bankrupt HDIL, which is stated to be around ₹6,500 crore or over 73% of its total loan book of ₹8,880 crore. While Mr. Thomas has not named any auditor in the letter that PTI has reviewed, according to its annual report for FY19, the bank has had three auditors — Lakdawala & Co, Ashok Jayesh & Associates and DB Ketkar & Co since FY11. Emails sent to all these auditors by PTI did not elicit response even after 24 hours.

‘Bank was growing’

“Since the bank was growing, statutory auditors, due to their time constraints, were checking only the incremental advances and not the entire operations in all the accounts,” Mr. Thomas claimed in the letter.

“The statutory auditors... scrutinised the accounts which were shown to them by the bank,” he added.

Mr. Thomas confirmed that the exposure to the bankrupt HDIL Group continued to remain ‘standard’ despite a delay in repayments for over three years.

Writes to bank, regulatory agencies

The apex body for chartered accountants, ICAI, has sought information from the RBI and other authorities on the PMC Bank crisis to check whether any auditor was involved in the alleged financial irregularities at the lender.

Taking note of the ‘enormity of the matter’, the ICAI on Wednesday said it had triggered its disciplinary mechanism and has written to the bank as well as regulatory agencies concerned.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has written to the Vigilance Department of the RBI and the Commissioner of Maharashtra Co-operative Societies.

In a statement, the institute said it had sought requisite details of their findings as well as that of any “member/firm alleged to be involved in the matter.” Information has also been sought from the statutory auditor of the bank “pertaining to financial years 2017-18 and 2018-19,” it added.

“ICAI will be actively pursuing the issue with the concerned regulators” it said.

Bosch’s devices prevent car occupants, rescuers from suffering electric shock

With a rising number of electric vehicles (EVs) expected to hit the road in the coming years, drivers are increasingly becoming uncertain about safety measures, especially as to what they should do in the event of a collision.

Damaged cables as the result of an accident are a cause for concern, as is the power from the battery that could leak into the metal bodywork of a hybrid or all-electric car. Germany’s Bosch has introduced innovative devices that can prevent electric shock when EVs are involved in accidents.

It has designed semiconductors that help prevent the risk of electric shock after an accident. These specially designed microchips deactivate the vehicle’s power circuits in a fraction of a second, to ensure the personal safety of vehicle occupants and the rescue crew.

Jens Fabrowsky, member of the executive management, Bosch’s Automotive Electronics Division, said, “Our semiconductor technology plays a vital role in the safety of hybrid and electric vehicles. Bosch supplies vehicle manufacturers with semiconductor chips for [use] in special systems that safely disconnect the battery in the event of a collision.”

These devices are part of a pyrotechnical safety switch system, or pyrofuse. They “blow out” whole sections of the cable connection to the high-voltage battery by means of miniature explosive charges, thus quickly and effectively shutting off the power circulation.

Tiny, powerful devices

For example, if the airbag sensor detects an impact, the tiny devices — measuring no more than 10 mm by 10 mmand weighing a few grams — trigger the pyrofuse.

This sets off little explosions that drive a wedge into the high-voltage cable between the battery unit and the power electronics, disconnecting the two. By thus cutting off the flow of power, the risk of electric shock or fire is fully eliminated.

Lithium-ion batteries, the power source for all-electric vehicles, are flammable, said Malcolm McConnell, a lead attorney at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen, a personal injury law firm based in the U.S.

“They contain a liquid electrolyte that stores energy and can overheat and combust with prolonged exposure to the wrong conditions. These power cells are also subject to short-circuiting if they are damaged, and those short-circuits can result in fires if the proper safety precautions are not in place,” he said.

However, most EVs are structurally safer than conventional cars. Because, they have fewer components needed to run the car, meaning less wear and tear and less space used within the infrastructure of the vehicle.

Firm targets 5 lakh stores in 6 months

Parle is relaunching the brand based on consumer response.REUTERSFRANCIS MASCARENHAS

Biscuits and confectionery major Parle Products expects its Rol.a.Cola candy to clock sales of ₹100 crore, accounting for 10% of its overall turnover in the first 12 months of relaunching the brand in India after a gap of 13 years, according to a senior company official.

Parle Products, which had discontinued the hard-boiled candy with cola flavour in 2006 during a product rationalisation process, is bringing the brand back based on consumer response on social media.

“A brand comeback based on consumer demand using social media interaction as a platform is a very significant one in the marketing of Parle Products... In the short term, we should be able to achieve around 200 tonnes a month in sales (of Rol.a.Cola),” Parle Products senior category head marketing Krishna Rao said.

“Overall, in the first year of relaunch of Rol.a.Cola, we are targeting around ₹100 crore of sales from it,” Mr. Rao said. “We are looking at reaching at least five lakh stores in the first six months,” he added.

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