In a move that goes contrary to the government's attempts to clip the discretionary powers of its ministers, the newly-appointed civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi has sought preferential treatment for the state-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd to secure a contract from public sector oil major ONGC.
He wrote to petroleum minister S. Jaipal Reddy on January 28 to pass instructions to the ONGC management to withhold its tender for leasing helicopters.
Ravi wants ONGC to award the contract to PHHL on a nomination basis.
"I request you to kindly consider instructing ONGC to withhold the referred tender that is closing on February 3, 2011 till a decision is taken to award the contract for the production task to PHHL on nomination basis at mutually agreed rates, terms and conditions," Ravi has written.
Reddy's office forwarded the letter to the ONGC chairman to get the "matter examined," on February 1, two days before the tender closed.
Subsequently, ONGC has chosen to extend the tender date by two weeks.
"We are examining the issues raised by the civil aviation ministry," a senior ONGC official. told Hindustan Times.
ONGC has, in its tender, sought 10 helicopters for its off-shore requirements, with a vintage cap of 5 years.
Ravi reminded Reddy that PHHL was "specifically created 25 years ago to meet the offshore logistic requirements of ONGC." ONGC has recently picked up 49% stake in PHHL.
"Since its (PHHL's) inception in 1986 till the previous tender in December, 2004, ONGC had been giving contract on nomination basis to PHHL for its off-shore helicopter requirements," Ravi said.
"Whatever PHHL has invested on Dauphin helicopters specifically for ONGC just four years back would stand infructuous as most of the helicopters will be disqualified, as per the new tender conditions," he said.
A group of ministers headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is slated next month to submit a report recommending that discretionary powers be scrapped, and suggesting measures to tackle corruption in public offices.