Oil Ministry reinstates Shashi Shankar as ONGC Director

New Delhi: The Ministry of petroleum and natural gas has reinstated Shashi Shankar as Director (Technology and Field Services) of Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) pending an inquiry into alleged irregularities in an unawarded Rs.23 crore tender of 2011.
The Ministry had on 23 February suspended Shankar following allegations of irregularities in a tender for buying 21 Blowout Preventers (BOP). However, a chargesheet against him could not be filed within the stipulated 90 days. “Pending completion of the inquiry, he is being reinstated to his position,” a top source said. Shankar, 54, is the youngest director on the board of the nation’s most profitable oil company. He was appointed Director (Technology and Field Services) on December 1, 2012.
The source said, the Supreme Court had in February held that a government employee’s suspension order would not stand beyond 90 days unless the prosecution files a chargesheet within that period. The court had also stated that even if a memo of charges is filed within 90 days, suspension can only be extended by a reasoned order.
In case of Shankar, who was suspended following allegations of irregularities in a BOP tender when he was General Manager (Drilling), no chargesheet has so far been filed even after more than four months. The tender, which was originally floated in 2008, has not 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. Sources said ONGC in 2008 had floated a tender for buying Sources said ONGC in 2008 had 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 $ 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. The apex court while fixing the 90-day limit had said that this was necessary to protect the dignity of the individual that ought to be placed on par with the right to a speedy trial.
A suspended employee has to face insinuations, scorn and derision, even before being formally charged with some misdemeanour, indiscretion or offense, the court had noted. The ruling was aimed at putting an end to the practice of putting employees on indefinite suspension pending enquiry.
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. Previously, the government had suspended A K Srivastava, Chairman and Managing Director of National Aluminium Co (NALCO) following an investigation by CBI.
Source: Mint; 16 July 2015

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