Shashi Shanker has been appointed Chairman and Managing Director of India’s biggest oil and gas producer, ONGC, till March 2021. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) named Shanker, who is currently Director (Technical and Field Services) at ONGC, as CMD till his superannuation, as against an initial one-year term proposed by the Oil Ministry.
The ministry had, in a departure from past norms and guidelines, earlier this month recommended to the ACC that Shanker be appointed for an initial one-year term instead of the usual five-year period, sources in the know of the development said.
During this one-year term, his performance was proposed to be reviewed every quarter instead of the current practice of review after one year, they said.
ACC, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, appointed Shanker as Chairman and Managing Director of ONGC “till the date of his superannuation or until further orders, whichever is earlier”, an official order issued last evening said.
Shanker, 56, will take charge from October 1 when the incumbent Dinesh K Sarraf retires and will have a three-and- a-half-year term until March 31, 2021.
Reached for comments, a top oil ministry official, refusing to be identified, said, “all that matters is what is the appointment terms. What we said or did not say are irrelevant”.
Sources said government headhunters Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB) had after interviewing nine candidates on June 19 recommended Shanker for the ONGC top job.
Anti-corruption watchdog CVC cleared his appointment last month. More than a month later, the ministry cited exploration challenges facing ONGC in raising crude oil and natural gas output in seeking a year’s validity for Shanker’s appointment.
During this one year initial period, his performance was proposed to be reviewed on a quarterly basis before seeking fresh ACC mandate for further employment, sources said.
ONGC’s crude oil production was 22.56 million tons in 2012-13, which dipped to 22.25 million tons in the following year before rising marginally to 22.26 million tons in 2014-15 and 22.36 million tons in 2015-16. It dipped again to 22.25 million tons in 2016-17.
Sarraf, who took over as the Chairman of ONGC on March 1, 2014, has been shortlisted to head the downstream oil regulator, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB).
Established norms and PESB rules state that a board-level functionary would be considered for appointment for a period of five years or until the age of superannuation, whichever is earlier, with a provision that he/she would be assessed by the administrative ministry after the first year of his employment.
After yesterday’s order, Shanker’s performance would now be reviewed after one year and the ministry would seek confirmation for the balance tenure.
The Oil Ministry had in February 2015 suspended Shanker following allegations of irregularities in a tender for buying 21 Blowout Preventers (BOP).
The suspension, which was handed over without giving any showcase, was set aside after CVC found no wrongdoing on his part. He was reinstated in July that year with orders that said that the period of suspension be treated as his being on service.
No chargesheet was filed against him within the stipulated 90 days.
Shanker was the youngest director on the board of the nation’s most profitable oil company when he was appointed Director (Technology and Field Services) on December 1, 2012. He was just 51 years old then.
ONGC board has seven full-time directors including the Chairman and Managing Director. While Sarraf retires on September 30, Director (Finance) A K Srinivasan would retire on October 31. Director (Offshore) T K Sengupta retires on December 31, followed by Director (Onshore) V P Mahawar in February 2018 and Director (HR) D D Misra in July next year.