Moily in controversy over mooting extension for ONGC chief

Moily in controversy over mooting extension for ONGC chief

Oil Minister Veerappa Moily was on Wednesday mired in fresh controversy over the appointment of India’s largest oil and gas explorer ONGC’s boss.

The minister seemed to be favouring post-retirement extension of incumbent Sudhir Vasudeva even as the government another person as the chairman and managing director (CMD) of the state-owned Maharatna firm.

Dinesh K Sarraf, 56, who is currently Managing Director of ONGC’s overseas arm ONGC Videsh, will be the new CMD, putting a spanner on the proposal from the oil minister, who wanted incumbent chief Sudhir Vasudeva to continue.

Sarraf was all set to head ONGC after the retirement of Vasudeva on February 28.

In fact, he was selected by the Public Enterprise Selection Board in August last year. Thereafter, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) that also includes the prime minister and the home minister, had approved the appointment of Sarraf, according to sources.

However, Moily, in November last year wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking one-year post retirement extension to Vasudeva on the plea that ONGC needed his presence to complete on-going strategic projects.

The ministry then forwarded another proposal to ACC. Either give Vasudeva an extension or appoint Sarraf as the next CMD. A stage came when the Department of Personnel and Training asked the ministry about Central Vigilance Commission’s clearance for Vasudeva, a mandatory requirement for appointments approved by ACC. The ministry had then said that CVC approval for Vasudeva might be obtained post-facto. The ministry, however, was informed that as many as six complaints were there against Vasudeva while Saraff had cleared the CVC test.  

After the the CVC letter, Oil Secretary Vivek Rae also noted that it was “clearly not possible to obtain vigilance clearance for Vasudeva in the next few days. The only alternative is to grant him extension, pending vigilance clearance, in case ACC deems it fit to do so”.

However, the oil ministry in a statement issued on Wednesday, said the decision by Moily was taken “purely on merit and in the interest of the organisation i.e. ONGC.”

This is not the first instance when the government has ignored CVC’s recommendations. Earlier this month, Archana Ramasundaram, a 1980-batch IPS officer from Tamil Nadu, was appointed by the government as Additional Director in CBI apparently ignoring the CVC recommendation.

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