Govt headhunter finds no one suitable for Hindustan Petroleum's top post

The Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) on June 14 interviewed eight candidates, including a director on the HPCL board and managing director of Indraprastha Gas Ltd (IGL), but rejected them all.
Last Updated : 16 June 2024, 07:11 IST

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New Delhi: The government headhunter PESB has rejected all candidates it interviewed for the top job at Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), the third instance in as many years that the board has not found any suitable candidate for the role in a state oil firm.

The Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) on June 14 interviewed eight candidates, including a director on the HPCL board and managing director of Indraprastha Gas Ltd (IGL), but rejected them all.

"The Board did not recommend any candidate for the post of chairman and managing director (CMD) HPCL and advised the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas to choose an appropriate course of further action for selection, including the Search-Cum-Selection Committee (SCSC) or as deemed appropriate with the approval of the competent authority," the PESB panel said in a notification.

The HPCL CMD post will fall vacant on September 1, 2024, when the incumbent Pushp Kumar Joshi retires on attaining a superannuation age of 60 years.

The PESB had previously not found anyone suitable for the top job at the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). This led to the incumbent in IOC getting an additional year in office even after attaining superannuation age and a retired executive being given charge in ONGC.

PESB, on June 3, 2021, interviewed nine candidates, including two serving IAS officers, to head India's largest oil and gas producer, ONGC. But it found neither senior bureaucrats Avinash Joshi and Niraj Verma nor Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) director-finance Pomila Jaspal and ONGC director for technology and field services Om Prakash Singh suitable.

The ministry thereafter constituted a search-cum-selection panel and named Arun Kumar Singh, who had retired after attaining 60 years of age from Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), to head ONGC. Singh wasn't eligible to apply in the first place, but the eligibility rule was changed to allow consideration of persons who have attained 60 years of age. He was given a three-year term that ends in December 2025.

In the case of IOC, PESB, in May last year, did not make any recommendation for a replacement of Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, who was to retire after attaining 60 years of age in August 2023. The panel interviewed 10 candidates, including Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd (CPCL) managing director Arvind Kumar.

This was followed by a rare move. Vaidya, who took over as the chairman of India's biggest oil company on July 1, 2020, was "re-employment on a contract basis" for one year "beyond the date of his superannuation i.e. with effect from September 1, 2023, till August 31, 2024", according to an official order dated August 4, 2023.

This month, the oil ministry invited applications for the new chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). The selection will be done by a three-member search-cum-selection committee headed by the PESB chairperson and includes the oil secretary and former HPCL chairman MK Surana as members.

Applications have been sought from engineers, chartered accountants and cost accountants with postgraduate management degrees from leading institutions and having at least five years experience in leadership roles by July 3. The age eligibility cut-off has been set at no more than 58 years for internal candidates and 57 years for outsiders, with 60 years as retirement age, according to the advertisement.

The ministry initially proposed allowing anyone who has not attained the age of 61 years to be considered for the job. This made Vaidya eligible for the job. However, the proposal did not find favour with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Thereafter, the government reverted to the old system of appointing PSUs head with 60 years as the retirement age and invited the applications.

Prior to Vaidya, no chairman of a Maharatna PSU was given an extension beyond 60 years in recent years. In fact, the government had last year denied Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra an eight-month extension as director (human resources) of IOC till his superannuation age.

Existing rules for hiring board-level positions in PSUs allow consideration of candidature of an internal person with at least two years of service left before retirement and three years in case of outside candidates.

PESB, in the June 14 notification for the HPCL top job, said it interviewed the HPCL director for refineries Shunmugavel Bharathan and four executive directors of the company, Anuj Kumar Jain, Subodh Batra, K Vinod and Sandeep Maheshwari. It also interviewed one executive director of IOC, GAIL and IGL managing director Kamal Kishore Chatiwal.

The board said it found none suitable for the HPCL top job.

Published 16 June 2024, 07:11 IST

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