India's top oil and gas producer ONGC got a third interim chairman as Rajesh Kumar Srivastava as the government has not made a full-time appointment yet.
Srivastava, who is the senior-most director on the ONGC board, has been given additional charge of chairman and managing director after current acting head Alka Mittal superannuated.
An oil ministry order said Srivastava, who is Director (Exploration) of ONGC, has been entrusted with an additional charge of chairman and managing director "for a period of 4 months with effect from September 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022 (i.e. the date of his superannuation) or till the appointment of a regular incumbent to the post, or until further orders, whichever is the earliest."
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is without a regular chairman and managing director since April 2021. Subhash Kumar, the then senior-most director on the company board and the director for finance, was named officiating head after Shashi Shanker superannuated on March 31, 2021.
And when Kumar retired on December 31, 2021, Alka Mittal, Director for Human Resources, was given the additional charge. Mittal superannuated on August 31. Government headhunter PESB in June last year did not find anyone suitable among nine candidates, including two serving IAS officers and sitting directors of the company, to head ONGC.
Thereafter, in February this year, a search-cum-selection committee, headed by the PESB chairman and comprising oil secretary and former Indian Oil Chairman B Ashok (outside expert), was asked to hunt for the new chairman.
The panel started work only recently after the ministry asked it to consider candidates who were no more than 60 years of age on the date of occurrence of the vacancy, according to the ministry's office memorandum sent to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on June 17.
The vacancy arose on March 31, 2021.
Prior to this change, the minimum age prescribed for being eligible for the top job was 45 years. Besides, internal candidates needed to have two years of residual service as on the date of vacancy and three years for external candidates.
What the ministry proposed was that any eligible candidate who is not more than 60 years of age at the time of occurrence of vacancy which was April 1, 2021, should be considered eligible.
This essentially meant that the current acting chairman, Alka Mittal, who otherwise was to retire at August-end and was ineligible, had come under the zone of consideration. Also, Srivastava, who retires on December 31, had become eligible.
Previously, only ONGC Director (Offshore) Pankaj Kumar and Director (T&FS) Om Prakash Singh were eligible. The panel interviewed six out of the nine candidates it had shortlisted on August 27. Those interviewed included Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd chairman Arun Kumar Singh and Engineers India Ltd head Vartika Shukla, sources said.
Mittal as well as Indian Oil Corporation's (IOC) head S M Vaidya, who were shortlisted, did not appear for the interview. Singh is due to retire from the top job at BPCL at end of October and has already been selected to head Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB). Others who appeared for the interview included Pankaj Kumar and Srivastava.
Two of the three external candidates called for the interview appeared before the panel, they said.
The choice of the selection committee was not immediately known and the appointment will take at least 2-3 months as the candidate selected will have to be cleared by anti-corruption bodies like CBI and CVC before the name is put up to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for final vetting and approval.