ONGC Board Spikes Rahas Okay To Norwegian Firm

New Delhi, November 28: | Updated: Nov 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
In an embarrassing development, ONGC chief Subir Raha invited a Norwegian firm Statoil through that countrys diplomatic mission to sign a multi-million dollar deal even before his boards approval and the top decision making forum did not approve of the deal.

The proposal to award the contract to Statoil on a nomination basis could not be pushed through at the meeting of the ONGC board on October 28 where government nominated directors were believed to have had favoured global tenders for deep-sea exploration rigs, sources said.

A week ahead of the board meeting, Mr Raha wrote to Norwegian ambassador suggesting that Statoil representative be called for signing the deal on November 4 or 5.

Asked if it was not tantamount to pre-empting the board, Me Raha defended his action saying his communication was subject to the board approving the proposal.

At the October 28 board meeting, all the three government directors were understood to have had asked the exploration firm to invite international competitive bids so as to ascertain if the award of around 200,000 dollars per day contract for two years to Statoil for its advanced drilling unit without the normal tendering process was fair or not. Talks with Statoil, Mr Raha said, were initiated only after the board clearance. The invitation was subject to the deal being cleared by the board, he said. As per the proposal, besides paying for the rigs ONGC was also to pay for all consumables that Statoil would contract on its own, sources said.

Notably, ONGC is opposing British oil and gas major BG Group taking over operatorship of joint venture Panna-Mukta and Tapti oil and gas field on the grounds that operator gets neat margins in award of contracts.