A new controversy unfolded in the petroleum sector on Tuesday after the ministry of petroleum and natural gas suspended a director from the board of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
Shashi Shankar (54) – the youngest director in ONGC – was suspended for alleged irregularities in an unawarded Rs 23 crore tender of 2011.
The tender was for procuring some two dozen blowout preventers (BOPs) or specialised devices, usually installed to seal and monitor oil and gas wells.
The exact details about the names of companies being pushed for this tender could not be ascertained.
However, company sources said the controversy rose from the contract being awarded to a Pune-based company.
“Shankar, who was GM at the time, and later officer on special duty (OSD) to the then director (technical), did not sign the file and kept the contract pending,” said a senior company official. Shankar was appointed director (technical and field services) on December 1, 2012. He was unavailable for comment.
Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan told Hindustan Times that his ministry had acted on the basis of a complaint emanating from ONGC itself.
When asked about the plausibility of such a high-level officer being involved in such a low-value contract, he said, “A flaw is a flaw irrespective of the contract’s value.”
As director (technical and field services), he was in-charge of all drilling and field operations, including awards of tenders running into $2-3 billion (Rs 12,400 to Rs 18,600 crore) a year.
Ministry officials said Shankar was suspended on Monday evening, and was informed that disciplinary proceedings were being contemplated against him.
ONGC on Tuesday informed stock exchanges in a regulatory filing about Shankar’s suspension “with immediate effect.”
This is the first such action against a director since the company was listed two decades ago.
Sources said he was suspended to conduct an impartial probe in the matter.
An official is normally suspended in circumstances where he or she can influence the course of an investigation in alleged irregularity against him or her. As director (T&FS), Shankar was in-charge of all drilling and field operations, including tendering.