Regulator struggles with low pay scales and no staff

Vol 11, PW 16 (13 Dec 07) People & Policy

Pity the new downstream oil and gas regulator, as it struggles to stay afloat with meagre resources and hardly any staff.

Labanyendu Mansingh, chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, tells us “it is impossible for us to perform all our functions with such a small staff paid on government pay scales.â€‌ Mansingh says the Board has just four officers on loan from the oil ministry.

“The ministry has sanctioned us 40 staff but only 11 are officers,â€‌ adds Mansingh. “They have tied us down to government pay scales.

â€‌ Two weeks ago the Board circulated its staff requirement to federal ministries, state governments, and management institutes. “We’ve received no response,â€‌ adds Mansingh.

“I am not sure we will get a response.â€‌ Mansingh said the Board needs highly skilled and motivated professionals competent to handle complex technical and commercial issues.

“Usual government staff will not do,â€‌ he says. Under the spotlight will be proposals worth several billion dollars.

“We need staff that can’t be influenced. You have to pay market rates and not government salaries for such people.

â€‌ If staff, “do not have the right background and attitude, regulation will be hit and this will have a domino effect on the entire oil and gas sector.â€‌ Mansingh is clear that he does not want the Board staffed only with people from state-owned oil companies.

“There will not be a level playing field in such a situation,â€‌ he says. “As a regulator my secretariat should not be dominated by PSUs.

We want independent people.â€‌ Mansingh has asked the government for the same advantages enjoyed by stock market regulator SEBI and telecoms regulator TRAI.

Mansingh says his Board has more responsibility than TRAI and should enjoy the same pay and facilities. “SEBI has 460 staff with good pay and facilities,â€‌ he says.

“TRAI has 270 people but no licencing powers, unlike us.â€‌ Not only this, the Board must also protect consumer interests.

“This is an extremely tall order and almost impossible with a small staff on government salaries.â€‌