Interviews on August 27 to pick CMD for ONGC

Vol 25, PW 19 (25 Aug 22) People & Policy

More than a year after former ONGC chairman Shashi Shanker retired, the oil ministry is finally getting close to selecting a new full-time chairman.

Interviews to pick a full-time CMD for ONGC will likely be held in Delhi at the oil ministry on August 27 (2022). Candidates will have to impress a three-member selection panel headed by oil secretary Pankaj Jain, PESB chair (Ms) Mallika Srinivasan, and ex-IndianOil chairman B Ashok, now head of the proposed Ratnagiri refinery.

Under new oil ministry rules, whoever is selected will get a three-year tenure from the date of appointment, irrespective of age. Previously, all directors and chairpersons stayed in the job for five years or until 60, whichever is earlier.

At least two lists of candidates are floating around. One list includes the present interim chairwoman Alka Mittal, who retires on August 31 (2022).

Also on this list is director offshore Pankaj Kumar and director exploration RK Srivastava, who retires on December 31 (2022). Non-ONGC candidates include IOC chairman SM Vaidya, Bharat Petroleum chairman Arun Singh, who retires on October 31 (2022), and Engineers India chairwoman Vartika Shukla.

Others on the list are Ashish Bhandari, formerly with Baker Hughes-GE and now CEO and MD of Pune-based Thermax; former ONGC employee Nitinkumar Birla now with Kuwait Gulf Oil; and former ONGC officer Baroruchi Mishra, now with Shell India. A separate list in circulation includes the names of ONGC director technology and field services OP Singh, ONGC director onshore Anurag Sharma and ONGC director finance (Ms) Pomila Jaspal but excludes Bhandari, Birla and Mishra.

On June 17 (2022), the oil ministry relaxed the eligibility criteria for the selection process, allowing candidates with less than two years to retirement to apply, unusual for a state-owned company chairman selection. Candidates must be aged under 60 on March 31 (2021), when Shashi Shanker retired.

"Probably the selection panel has someone in mind," says a source. "That's why these unusual criteria and tenure have been set out."

Equally strange is that the panel issued no advertisement and directly shortlisted candidates of its choice. "This is highly unusual and can be legally challenged as ONGC is not privately owned," we hear.

"How were these names shortlisted?"