Indecision over ONGC chairman hits staff morale

Vol 24, PW 15 (17 Jun 21) People & Policy

This is the worst time for ONGC to be without a full-time chairman after the fallout from the offshore Mumbai disaster on May 17 (2021).

ONGC staff are understandably upset the PESB has not recommended any candidate for the job after interviewing nine earlier this month (June). "This is not good," says an ASTO source.

"A full-time chairman will have long-term plans for the company." Director finance Subhash Kumar is holding additional charge as interim chairman since April 1 (2021) after Shashi Shanker retired the previous day.

After interviewing candidates for the chairman's position on June 4 (2021), the PESB merely stated: "Keeping in the (sic) view the strategic importance and vision for the company and its future the (interview) board did not recommend any candidate and decided to constitute a search committee in PESB." Still unclear is when the government will set up the search committee or if any of the candidates interviewed on June 4 will be eligible.

Some say the PESB's move was no surprise. "The PMO is unhappy with ONGC's inability to meet production targets," we hear.

He adds the PESB's decision fits with government plans to carve up ONGC into autonomous units or even privatise it. "ONGC needs an outsider as chairman with no previous association to the company," we hear.

"Not someone from within the company or even from another state-owned company." One name still in circulation is Assam principal secretary Avinash Joshi, who is believed to have Narendra Modi's support.

But some say it would be strange if the PESB search committee recommended Joshi's name now after rejecting him on June 4 when it held interviews. "Why wasn't his name recommended on June 4, if he is the choice?" wonders a source.

One source believes the government "doesn't owe answers to anyone about its choice of ONGC chairman; if the government wants to do something, it will go ahead!" he argues.