Arun Singh reorganises ONGC board functions

Vol 26, PW 5 (23 Feb 23) People & Policy

Unlike his predecessors, ONGC chairman Arun Singh is on a mission to delegate powers to Board directors as he continues his drive to restructure the company.

Some see this as a positive development, which could make decision-making at slow-moving ONGC more efficient. But others fear it could lead to in-fighting as directors in charge of their fiefdoms compete for limited funds.

Singh took over as ONGC chairman and CEO on December 7 (2022). Barely a month later, on January 5 (2023), ONGC's executive committee (EC), headed by Singh, directed the creation of a committee of directors and a separate committee of executive directors.

Both would report to the EC to discuss agenda items in line with their new powers agreed upon during the January 5 meeting. On January 23 (2023), ONGC's chief of corporate strategy and planning, Pawan Aggarwal, released a seven-page charter detailing the functions of the EC and the new directors and ED committees.

As before, the EC will be headed by the chairman and include all 'functional' directors plus invitees: the executive officer to the chairman, the chief executive assistants to the 'functional' directors and the chief of corporate strategy and planning. But there will be no permanent or full-time invitees to EC meetings.

Instead, heads of business units, their representatives, or those invited by the chairman will participate in EC meetings that discuss items related to their business units. Reserved for the EC meetings involving the chairman will be "major" policy-level decision-making, including business operations reviews, creation or abolition of posts, appointments of advisors and consultants, promotions and transfers, and voluntary retirement cases.

In contrast, the most senior director will chair the committee meetings of functional directors, excluding the chairman, to take day-to-day decisions such as hiring oilfield services, approving additional gas supplies to direct marketing customers to avoid flaring; and approving expenditure on consultancies/agencies for more than Rs20cr ($2.8m) and less than Rs50cr ($7.1m). One step below will be the committee of EDs with powers to approve the hiring of consultancies/agencies for more than Rs1cr ($120,700) and less than Rs20cr; approving non-binding MoUs; approving media sponsorship or cultural and sports events and financial aid or support to schools or universities or professional bodies; and recommending cases of premature retirement on medical grounds.