Pradhan rejects ‘wrong’ choice of PSU director

Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas

Petroleum Ministry has rejected selection of U V Mannur as Director (Marketing) of nation's biggest company, Indian Oil Corp (IOC).

Government headhunters Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB) had on 26 May selected Mannur, Executive Director of IOC, as replacement of incumbent M Nene when he retires on 31 December. Mannur was cleared by anti-corruption watchdogs CVC and CBI before his name was put up to Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, sources said.

Pradhan however rejected his candidature as he wanted fresh candidates for the post. The file with Pradhan's recommendation for rejecting Mannur's selection will now be put to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC).

ACC will decide if the selection should be rejected and PESB asked to disclose its second choice from among the 11 candidates it had interviewed on 26 May or fresh interviews be called, sources said. This will be the first candidate to be rejected by Pradhan who had on at least three occasions accepted the selections done by PESB during the tenure of previous UPA government.

Pradhan went with PESB selection of B Ashok as chairman of IOC as also 18 February shortlisting of A K Sharma as Director (Finance) of the company. He also endorsed PESB selection for HPCL’s Director (Marketing) job. Ashok took over as IOC Chairman on 18 July while Sharma's appointment is under process. Sources said PESB rushed through interviews to select directors on board of PSUs even as the UPA government was in transition.

PESB's schedule of interviews for May did not list the post of Director (Marketing) at IOC. But it revised the list to slot the interviews for 26 May, the day Narendra Modi took oath as Prime Minister.

The interviews were reportedly advanced as the then Chairman R S Butola was to superannuate on 31 May and there was an eagerness to conduct the interviews before he demitted office. Chairman is part of the interview board for director's post.

IOC is the nation's largest refiner and fuel marketing company. It has about 54 per cent share of the fuel market and controls the largest network of petrol pumps. It has 23,993 petrol pumps besides 6002 rural retail outlets. It also owns 7035 LPG distributing agencies, 98 aviation fuel stations and 3930 kerosene dealerships.

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