Still no sign of a new exploration director at ONGC

Vol 3, PW 22 (24 Nov 99) Exploration & Production

Indias lethargic bureaucracy is taking its own time to appoint a new exploration director at ONGC.

Hopes that the new BJP-led government would move quickly to appoint what is after all one of the most sensitive jobs on ONGCs board have been disappointed. It clearly takes more than an election to change the habits of Indias self-serving bureaucrats.

Petrowatch learns it will be another three months, possibly longer, before a director is appointed to replace TK Gopalaswamy, who stepped down as exploration director this year, two years ahead of time and is presently living his retirement in Chennai. Why the delay A tortuous selection procedure that needs to be abolished but sadly, is still functioning.

The root of the problem is the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), a sleepy body of eminent technocrats and bureaucrats charged with selecting the directors and chairmen of Indias state run behemoths. This report learns ONGC has forwarded the names of 18 individuals who have applied for Gopalaswamys job.

The hot favourites are: Debarata Ray, General Manager of the ONGC division that looks after joint venture contracts with overseas companies (EXCOM); Yogesh Sinha, General Manager of ONGCs exploration directorate; and DR Ghosh who overseas the deepwater exploration programme from Mumbai. All three are geologists, traditionally favoured for the post of exploration director.

Before the names are sent to the PESB, they need to be vetted by Indias Central Vigilance Committee (CVC), an anti-corruption body whose chief, N Vittal is a former PESB chairman. This can take several months and is open to abuse by disgruntled candidates who level unfounded allegations against rivals.

ONGCs operations director AS Soni, meanwhile, continues to hold temporary charge of Gopalaswamys post until a new director is appointed.