‘Outsider’ possible as new ONGC chairman

Vol 25, PW 8 (24 Mar 22) News in Brief

The PESB's surprise recommendation of 'outsider' Ranjit Rath for Oil India chairman on March 9 (2022) has set the government thinking that it could replicate the appointment of an 'outsider' at ONGC.

Well placed sources tell us the government has "sounded out" three or four senior Indian-origin executives with major foreign oil companies to see if they would be interested in heading ONGC. "But how do you pay someone like that a salary similar to what they get now?" says a source.

One suggestion is to hire someone on contract, not on full-time employment. "But how can such a person (hired on contract) be put in charge of the (ONGC) board?" he adds.

Such are the dilemmas the government wants to resolve before instructing the search panel announced on February 4 (2022) to begin interviewing candidates. Oil ministry additional secretary Amar Nath is believed to have told fellow bureaucrats and oil PSU directors that he is interested in the position.

Nath has been the government representative on the ONGC board since June 28 (2016), when he joined the ministry as joint secretary. "Nath knows all the ONGC executive directors and is familiar with more than half the group general managers and chief general managers," we hear.

"He is not a total outsider." Nath and others like him have more chance than ever of becoming ONGC chairman following the government's endorsement of an oil ministry suggestion that central government bureaucrats or 'armed forces' personnel could be considered for ONGC chairman "on an immediate absorption basis."

On June 4 (2021), the PESB interviewed nine candidates but found none suitable. ONGC has been without a full-time chairman for almost a year since Shashi Shanker retired on March 31 (2021).