Appointment to what is said to be a lucrative post of Director (Commercial) of a steel PSU (Public Sector Undertaking) has taken the shape of a major “scam”. There are serious allegations of corruption and manipulation in appointment to the post which has even reached the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Insiders point out that although the post is not a high profile, it involves dealings worth crores of rupees, hence a highly coveted one.
Union HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal and Visakhapatnam MP, Ms D Purandeshwari have urged the Prime Minister to scrap this particular selection process to the post of Director (Commercial) for the Vizag Steel Plant—Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL)—on grounds of suspected “malpractices” and serious “violation of selection rules”. She has sought a fresh and more transparent selection process. When contacted on Thursday, May 14, 2010, Purandeshwari confirmed to this correspondent that she had not only raised this issue through a letter to PM, but said, “I had also met the Steel Minister and told him about the discrepancy,” and she added, “I am still waiting for their response.”
In a letter written to the PM
dated February 16, 2010, Purandeshwari says: “As the elected MP from Visakhapatnam constituency and as Vizag Steel Plant (RINL) is in my constituency, I would like to bring to your kind notice about certain discrepancies in opaque manner in which the selection of candidate for the post of Director (Commercial) has happened, ignoring the experience of the internal candidates who are set to be eligible for the post.”
The letter points out how a junior-level officer of Central Coal Field, Ranchi, who was rejected in the first list of candidates for interview as he was not found eligible for the post, due to lack of experience in marketing, was not only included in the second list for interview but figured on the top of the list of the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB). All Board level appointments to the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) are done by PESB through notification of posts, specifying eligibility and field of experience. Selection is by interview and PESB is assisted by Secretary of ministry concerned (here steel) and Chairman-cum-Managing Director (CMD) of the PSU concerned (here RINL).
The department had notified about vacancy to the post on September 15, 2009, and called for applications for the post of Director (Commercial) in RINL and last date for receiving applications was November 16, 2009. The post specifically required experience in marketing. A large number of applications were received and after scrutiny the PESB cleared some names and put it out on its website by first week of December 2009. The names cleared included—Messrs GVS Prasad, R Shanker, PP Mohrekar, GVN Reddy, MMK Murty (all from RINL), Messrs SK Das and SR Rai (all from Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Mr Vijay Kumar (Jindal Steel), SK Rishi (Breath Waite), VK Gaur (Brahmaputra Valley Fertilisers).
“At this stage, one candidate Mr TK Chand, on lien from RINL, who is incumbent Director (Personnel) in Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL), Ranchi, who was not short listed (having experience in Personnel field) represented for consideration on the plea, that he had about eight months experience as the Director for Marketing in the Coal PSU. His name was subsequently added to the short-listed candidates that too as an internal candidate of RINL. Also he was ultimately selected as No 1 on the panel,” Purandeswari’s letter to the PM notes.
Pointing further that TK Chand, who belonged to coal PSU and claimed barely eight months’ experience in marketing, she has affirmed that he was given an “overriding consideration as an internal candidate, ignoring the commercial and marketing experience of more than 20 years of some of the internal candidates who appeared for the interview appears to have been deliberately manipulative for the vested interests.”
“The selection”, she said, “ignores the need for capable and learned officers who are available within the organisation and have
served the company ever since its inception, grossly violating the need for professionalism in public sectors. It is also a matter of grave concern that the PESB should allow its selection procedures to be manipulated.”
Demanding that this selection be scrapped, the Vizag MP has also sought a probe into the basis on which the rejected candidate TK Chand’s name was included later on. “Either the application was allowed to be resubmitted (which is a malpractice) or the information suppressed initially was concocted subsequently. In either case the application is not valid.” She has also demanded to know why internal candidates of RINL with more than 20 years of experience in marketing were rejected.
The Prime Minister’s Office had asked the Secretariat of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), to look into the matter. The DOPT then asked Ministry of Steel to furnish comments on the issues raised. The Steel Ministry in return sent back the file to PESB.
According to Steel Ministry’s Joint Secretary, Dalip Singh (IAS), “The ministry had sought clarification from the PESB which is mainly responsible for the selection, and they had cleared the name of Mr Chand.” Singh ruled out any hanky-panky in the selection process. He said, “Mr Chand had two years’ experience in marketing according to PESB”, which he said, “is the basic requirement for the post.”
Asked why his name was not short-listed in the first panel for interview/selection for the post, Singh said, “The post he was holding in the coal PSU did not specify commercial experience in the job profile, although the work he did included commercial experience. And this matter was subsequently made clear, hence his name was included.” Although Singh had nothing to say about why names of other candidates for the post were rejected, he insisted that Mr Chand’s name had been cleared and that a notification announcing his appointment would be issued soon.
The Secretary, Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), Ms PS Behuria, when contacted, refused to say anything on this issue. Asked about the specific criteria required for getting appointment to the post as Director (Commercial) in terms of marketing experience, Ms Behuria said, “It’s all there on the website. I can’t tell you off hand… there are so many posts to which we make appointments, how can I remember each one’s criteria? Besides these are confidential matters.”
Sources in the Steel Ministry say that ministry is going ahead with the controversial appointment. This indicates that how-so-ever opaque or questionable be a bureaucratic procedure, it is difficult to shake or stir it, even by the high and mighty from within the government.
By Bisheshwar Mishra