Rejecting Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily's proposal to give Sudhir Vasudeva a post-retirement extension, Dinesh K Sarraf was on Wednesday appointed the new head of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, the nation's most profitable firm.
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved appointment of Sarraf, who at present is Managing Director of ONGC's overseas arm, ONGC Videsh Ltd.
Sarraf replaces Vasudeva, who turned 60 on Tuesday and is due to superannuate on Friday.
Sources in the Oil Ministry said the ACC, whose members include the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the minister of the concerned ministry, approved the appointment of Sarraf based on August 30 recommendation of the Government headhunter Public Enterprises Selection Board.
The appointment of Sarraf, 56, comes even as Moily was keen on getting Vasudeva one-year post-retirement extension on the plea that his appointment was delayed by eight months due to false complaints.
Also, ONGC needed his presence to complete ongoing strategic initiatives.
The ministry, they said, had forwarded to ACC a proposal containing two sets of options -- give Vasudeva an extension or appoint Sarraf as the next Chairman and Managing Director of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.
While Sarraf had all clearances, Vasudeva did not have approval of anti-corruption watchdog CVC which on February 10 had told the Ministry that there were 'a total number of six complaints/cases against Vasudeva which are pending in the ministry and are yet to be taken to their logical conclusion'.
The ministry, which in the proposal to the ACC, stated that CVC approval for Vasudeva might be taken post-facto, in a statement said the extension of Vasudeva was recommended by Moily "purely on merit and in the interest of the organisation i.e. ONGC."
Sarraf, 56, was Director (Finance) in ONGC before moving to ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) in September, 2011.
He transformed OVL into an aggressive overseas firm, stitching 4 deals worth over $11 billion since taking charge of the company.
Vasudeva took over as Chairman of ONGC on October 3, 2011.
"On advice of the Department of Personnel and Training the proposal was submitted in the prescribed format for consideration of the ACC.
"DoPT also advised to obtain comments from the CVC and the matter was accordingly forwarded to CVC.
"Certain observations/ queries were raised by CVC regarding the pending complaints against Vasudeva.
"Considering that only few days were left for his retirement, the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas on recommendation of the Secretary, Petroleum, referred the matter back to the DoPT with complete vigilance profile of Shri Sudhir Vasudeva with a request to place the matter before the ACC for decision, as deemed appropriate," the statement said.
Earlier in the day, opposition BJP and the Left parties slammed Moily for seeking an extension for Vasudeva without CVC clearance saying this is the second instance of the UPA government ignoring CVC in appointment to key positions.
Earlier this month, Archana Ramasundaram, a 1980-batch IPS officer from Tamil Nadu, was appointed by the government as Additional Director in CBI apparently ignoring the anti-corruption watchdog's recommendation.
On November 4, 2013, Moily wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking one-year post-retirement extension for Vasudeva.
Sources said while the Prime Minister's Office asked the Oil Ministry to submit a proper proposal, government headhunter PESB selected Sarraf to succeed Vasudeva on February 28.
Sarraf, who was previously Director (Finance) in ONGC, got CVC clearance, but the same for Vasudeva could not be obtained.
Both the names-- Vasudeva and Sarraf-- were forwarded to ACC by the Oil Ministry. When the Department of Personnel and Training asked the ministry about CVC clearance of Vasudeva, it was told that it will be obtained post-facto.
Prior to that, CVC had on February 10 written to the Oil Ministry saying: "There are a total number of six complaints/ cases against Vasudeva which are pending in the ministry and are yet to be taken to their logical conclusion... No recommendation of PESB has been furnished by the ministry with regard to proposed extension of his tenure and the period of extension."
Following the CVC letter, Oil Secretary Vivek Rae noted on files that it was "clearly not possible to obtain vigilance clearance for Vasudeva in the next few days.
"The only alternative is to grant him extension, pending vigilance clearance, in case ACC deems it fit to do so".
OVL, which since inception had invested $17 billion in 32 assets in 15 countries till 2011, has struck over $11 billion worth deals in the past one year under Sarraf.
In August last year, Sarraf led OVL in buying US energy major Anadarko Petroleum Corp's 10 per cent stake in a giant Mozambique gas field for $2.64 billion.
This deal came on top of the $2.475 billion deal announced in June to buy Videocon's 10 per cent stake in the same field, which may hold as much as 65 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas resources.
Sarraf holds Master's in Commerce from the University of Delhi.
He is also a member of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India and the Institute of Company Secretaries of India.
As head of ONGC, his immediate task would be to raise the stagnant oil and gas output and aggressively look for more reserves.
Image: Dinesh K Sarraf; Photograph, courtesy: ONGC Videsh