Government suspends ONGC technical director Shashi Shankar

By: | Published: February 24, 2015 8:39 PM

In a surprise move, government has suspended ONGC's Director (T&FS) Shashi Shankar for alleged irregularities...

Shashi Shankar for alleged irregularities in an unawarded Rs 23 crore tender.Shashi Shankar was removed for alleged irregularities in an unawarded Rs 23 crore ONGC tender. (Reuters)

In a surprise move, government has suspended ONGC’s Director (T&FS) Shashi Shankar for alleged irregularities in an unawarded Rs 23 crore tender, the first such action against the company’s official in more than two decades.

Shankar, who as the head of technology and field services (T&FS) annually handles at least Rs 15,000 crore of contracts for rigs and oilfield services, was suspended last evening for alleged irregularities in procurement tender of 21 blowout preventers (BOPs), the Oil Ministry said.

The tender, which was originally floated in 2008, hasn’t been awarded yet purportedly due to issues regarding technical competence of the lowest offer. Also, there was a representation from one MP, who is now a minister in the NDA government, against the lowest bidder.

“Shashi Shankar, Director (T&FS), ONGC has committed gross misconduct while dealing with a tender for procurement of 21 Blowout Preventers (BOP). He has been associated with this tender as Group General Manager and officer on special duty (OSD) to Director (T&FS) and from January 1, 2012 as Director (T&FS),” the ministry said in a statement here.

It further said the government has taken “strong note of the lapses” and ordered suspension of Shankar with immediate effect to “ensure fair and transparent inquiry”.

Shankar did not reply to phone calls made for comment.

Sources said Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) had in 2008 floated a tender for buying 21 BOPs, which are used to control and monitor oil and gas wells. Seven companies initially expressed interest but only three offers were received from Cameron France, Continent Project of Singapore and Worldwide Oilfield Machine (WOM) of Dubai in 2011.

Price bids were opened in December 2011 where Worldwide Oilfield Machine emerged as the lowest bidder offering USD 4.14 million (Rs 23 crore).

Following the VIP reference, ONGC’s board tendering committee headed by the chairman, formed a three member panel in August 2012 to re-check the suitability of WOM.

Shankar, who took over as Director (T&FS) in December 2012, was asked by the same panel in August 2013 to examine various issues. Three months later, WOM made a representation to ONGC’s Independent External Monitor, who in March last year held that the bidder was not declared successful even though it met the additional requirements prescribed by ONGC.

Shankar, who turns 54 on Monday, is the youngest director on the board of the nation’s most profitable oil company. He was appointed director (technical and field services) on December 1, 2012.

Anti-corruption watchdog CVC will now look into the issue.

Shankar is the first director of ONGC to be suspended since the explorer became a company in 1994. Prior to that in 1992, M C Nawalkta, Member (Finance) of the company, which was a Commission then, was suspended for alleged irregularities.

Shanker didn’t answer the calls to his mobile phone. ONGC Chairman Dinesh Kumar Sarraf didn’t answer calls either.

Previously, the government had suspended A K Srivastava, Chairman and Managing Director of National Aluminium Co (NALCO) following an investigation by CBI.

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