• OIL running without full-time CMD for a year

    ‘Navaratna’ company Oil India Limited (OIL) is functioning without a full-time chairman and managing director (CMD) since July 1 last year. The post is being temporarily held by a Petroleum Ministry bureaucrat of the Odisha cadre, UK Singh. This lack of a full-time company head has not done any good to enhance OIL’s production figures, alleged company insiders, adding that the procrastination in appointing an OIL CMD has done much damage to the company’s image globally.

    Public sector top management personnel recruiter Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) has so far held two interviews to select an OIL CMD. On the first occasion, the company’s director (finance), Rupshikha Saikia Borah was selected, but her appointment was rejected by the Prime Minister’s Office, without citing specifics. On the second occasion, the PESB, after interviewing a dozen applicants, decided that “more applicants need to be interviewed”.

    Early this year, the Government of India constituted a “search committee” to select an OIL CMD, with three members: PMO principal secretary Nripendra Mishra, oil industry veteran Bikash Chandra Borah and MoPNG secretary, KD Tripathy (he is a 1980 batch IAS of the Assam Meghalaya cadre). A highly qualified professional, Northeast India’s first woman chartered accountant, Fulbright scholar, Rupshikha Saikia Borah, is also an alumnus of the Delhi School of Economics. She, despite her credentials, now appears to have lost an opportunity to be OIL’s first woman chief. The search committee has invited 15 persons for a viva voce on April 25 this year in New Delhi. This list does not have Rupshikha Saikia Borah’s name.

    This search committee has received about 60 applications for the OIL CMD post, including that of Saikia Borah, according to highly placed industry sources. A large number of IAS officers also applied, as a vital precondition was relaxed for this one instance. The waived condition was that IAS officers have to resign from civil service if they apply for a PSU (public sector undertaking) post. To sugar-coat this waiver, the IAS lobby also facilitated mid-term repatriation from OIL to their parent cadre, as if in a deputation post. This seemingly unfair term in favour of the IAS is being frowned upon in the petroleum industry, as IAS officers have not been vested with profitability and proficiency responsibilities, but an easy exit route, in case matters get too hot in the volatile oil industry.

    Sources said that the MoPNG search committee has shortlisted 15 candidates for the interview in New Delhi to select the next OIL CMD. These 15 include three IAS officials, who have almost nothing to do with the petroleum industry: Ravi Kapoor, Jishnu Baruah and Anil Kumar Jain. However, Jain, a Planning Commission/Niti Ayog mandarin, has to his credit a book on natural gas. Others in the list include petroleum sector veterans like Pramod Kumar Sharma, Rahul Dasgupta, Utpal Borah, PK Rao, Dr Ashutosh Karnataka, Saumendra Kumar Baruah, Dr Sunil Y Bharati and Bedanta Sarmah. Curiously enough, the lone accounts specialist in the list is Robin Deka, an IRAS officer of the Railways. NEEPCO director SB Buragohain’s name also features in the list. 

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