GAIL chairman Banerjee fights smear campaign

Vol 7, PW 8 (02 Jul 03) People & Policy
     

GAIL CHAIRMAN and managing director Proshanto Banerjee is battling what he believes is a smear campaign launched by rivals and elements within his own company.

"Certain impressions are being created on the basis of half-truths and factually incorrect premises by some disgruntled elements and vested interest groups including senior GAIL officials," Banerjee tells PETROWATCH. Sometime in late May, an internal note began circulating in the oil ministry accusing Banerjee of misusing his power.

Seen by this report, the note makes two principal accusations: that Banerjeehas authorised the opening of a string of regional offices and appointed himself chairman of Mahanagar Gas, a joint venture between GAIL, British Gas and the Maharashtra government, without the approval of the GAIL board. The note also alleges that Banerjee's actions violate guidelines issued by the Department of Public Enterprises.

According to this note, these actions are the result of, "defective delegation of powers" within GAIL as a result of which the chairman emerges more powerful than the board of directors, unlike in peer companies such as ONGC and Indian Oil. "This is just not done in a PSU," reads the note.

"We do not know if this has happened by design or by default." Banerjee however is mounting a robust counter-attack against his detractors and is believed to have submitted a detailed defence of his position to oil secretary B.K Chaturvedi categorically refuting that GAIL operates any differently from IOC or ONGC.

It emerges that in April 2002 GAIL's board approved a series of measures suggested by PriceWaterhouseCoopers to delegate powers within GAIL - a move believed to justify Banerjee's position. It emerges that in April 2002 GAIL's board approved a series of measures suggested by PriceWaterhouseCoopers to delegate powers within GAIL - a move believed to justify Banerjee's position.

The PWC suggestions for GAIL were made after studying the internal decision-making procedures at nine companies: Indian Oil, NTPC, Oil India, Reliance, ONGC, Smithkline Beecham, Coca Cola, British Gas and Bharti Group. Another defence of Banerjee's position is that not just in GAIL but also in IOC and ONGC prior board approval is needed only to open overseas offices.

More, boards of IOC, Oil India and ONGC have all delegated the authority to open domestic offices.

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