Time to upgrade OVL board with more directors

Vol 7, PW 6 (04 Jun 03) People & Policy

AFTER MONTHS of delay ministry officials have approved ONGC's request to appoint a finance official to OVL's board as it struggles to cope with the mountain of work from its ever-expanding overseas portfolio.

Surajit Mitra, joint secretary finance and administration in the oil ministry, is expected to take up his position shortly. ONGC's request for two new director posts at OVL, one commercial and one operations, is still under consideration as bureaucrats scrutinise the company's articles of association that limit the number of directors to fifteen.

Today OVL has eleven directors but only managing director Atul Chandra and finance director R.S Butola are full time.

Directors from ONGC plus joint secretary exploration Jayant Mauskar and DGH boss Avinash Chandra make up the rest. OVL is desperate for more staff and needs to triple its workforce within the next twelve months if it is not to disappear in a sea of paperwork.

With just 30 professionals and 20 support staff, OVL is bigger than Oil India and manages $2.7bn worth of assets abroad, of which $1.5bn has already been invested. "Our staff don't have time to take a holiday," complains a source.

"Most work seven days a week. We can't go on like this." Until very recently OVL had no overseas assets save one in Vietnam (Block 06.1).

But over the past two years it has signed contracts in Iran (Farsi), Iraq (Block 8), Libya (49% in 2 blocks with Turkish Petroleum Overseas Company), Myanmar (Block A-1), Russia (Sakhalin) and most recently Sudan (Greater Nile). "We have so many operations overseas that we need someone to manage them full time," adds a source.

"Operations meetings take up a lot of time." And a commercial director "Atul Chandra is the one that opens the doors," reveals a source. "We need someone to close the door after him."