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Alok Kumar Gupta to head ONGC Videsh Ltd

In the absence of any full-time head, OVL did not make a single acquisition in the last one-and-a-half-years, records on the company website showed. The search-cum-selection committee comprised Oil Secretary Tarun Kapoor, former Indian Oil Corp (IOC) Chairman M A Pathan, and Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB) Chairman Rajiv Kumar.

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 09-07-2020 19:39 IST | Created: 09-07-2020 19:38 IST
Alok Kumar Gupta to head ONGC Videsh Ltd
Image Credit: ANI

A government search-cum-selection committee on Thursday chose Alok Kumar Gupta to head ONGC Videsh Ltd, India's flagship firm for the acquisition of oil and gas assets abroad. The panel selected Gupta, who is currently Director Operations at OVL, after interviewing more than a dozen candidates, sources with direct knowledge of the development said.

The post of Managing Director of OVL had been lying vacant since Narendra K Verma retired on January 31, 2019. In the absence of any full-time head, OVL did not make a single acquisition in the last one-and-a-half-years, records on the company website showed.

The search-cum-selection committee comprised Oil Secretary Tarun Kapoor, former Indian Oil Corp (IOC) Chairman M A Pathan, and Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB) Chairman Rajiv Kumar. Among those interviewed by the panel included OVL Director (Finance) Vivekanand and IFS officer Anurag Bhushan, presently India's high commissioner to Malawi. A few IAS officers too had applied and appeared for the interview.

Bhushan joined the interview through a video link while others were physically present at the PESB office. Sources said the committee's recommendation will go to the Cabinet Committee on Appointments headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for approval after Gupta is cleared by anti-corruption watchdogs CVC and CBI.

Gupta will have a tenure till June 2022 when he attains superannuation age of 60 years. PESB is the designated government headhunter for selecting directors and heads of public sector companies. It routinely initiates the process of inviting applications at least six months prior to the post falling vacant but the same was not done in case of OVL in 2018.

Sources said in the case of OVL, the oil ministry wanted a search-cum-selection committee to do the headhunting. But differences with different departments of the government over bureaucrats applying delayed the process.

The oil ministry, sources said, wanted any bureaucrat selected to be allowed to come to OVL on deputation. Others in the government, however, had favoured the bureaucrat resigning from service before joining OVL. The oil ministry had prevailed as the advertisement for the post had stated that joint secretaries in the Government of India and above rank officers can apply without resigning from service.

"The post has been exempted from the 'Rule of immediate absorption' and candidates may apply on deputation basis also," it had said. The government had in February 2015 approved the constitution of a search-cum-selection committee for selection to board level posts in central PSUs.

However, prior concurrence of the Department of Public Enterprises and PESB was needed if the committee route was to be taken. This requirement was dispensed with in November 2018. OVL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC). It has 39 projects in 19 countries spanning from Venezuela to New Zealand. It has so far invested USD 29.28 billion in projects abroad.

Its last acquisition was a 4 per cent stake in Lower Zakum Concession in the UAE in February 2018. But some of its past decisions, such as the 2014 decision to buy 16 per cent stake in Mozambique gas block, have come under the intense scrutiny of the present government.


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