KATHMANDU, March 26: Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has issued a nine-point circular to all bank and financial institutions (BFIs) outlining service measures that they have to embrace in the wake of the lockdown imposed by the government to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the circular, the NRB has asked BFIs to ensure that there is adequate cash in their ATMs and monitor the replenishment of the cash in their vending machines.BFIs have been also told to make sure about the availability of transactions through the electronic channels and encourage their clients to use digital banking services. Amid concerns about the risk of virus spreading from the cash, BFIs and the NRB have been encouraging the public to prioritize mobile banking or electronic payment over cash transactions. Following the directive from the central bank, all BFIs and payment service providers and operators have decided to waive off all fees and charges on electronic payments. Similarly, Nepal Clearing House has also removed all charges and fees for transactions in its Connect IPS platform including the payment transfers.In coordination with provincial governments, BFIs have been told to provide banking service in each local unit from minimum employees for a certain period of time. BFIs have also been asked to post details of contact person of the branch offices that will remain opened during the lockdown period on their respective websites. Such information has also to be pasted on the main door of bank branches that will remain closed, reads the circular.
BFIs have been also asked to make necessary arrangements for clearing of checks from customs points. They are also required to make needful arrangements to provide draft, TT, letter of credit and bank guarantee, among other services, to ensure supply of essential goods in the market. Similarly, microfinance institutions with license to mobilize deposits have also been told to continue their operation if possible in coordination with local administration.
Providing a relaxation on reporting norms, the central bank has asked BFIs to make regular reporting after seven days of the opening of office after the situation normalizes.
Among others, banks have been told to operate banking services as mentioned in the Nepal Gazette as an essential service, continue business from minimum possible staffers and pursue strategies like remote access, work from home and shift-wise work, maintain basic health measures like use of sanitizer, mask, disinfectant, thermal scanning and hand gloves, provide services by ensuring that there is no crowd of service seekers, and encourage electronic transactions. Earlier on Sunday, the central bank had also issued a five-point circular to the BFIs on safety measures that they have to follow to protect themselves and their staffers from COVID-19.