Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily told reporters here on Thursday that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had cleared Dinesh K Sarraf's appointment for the job of the head of State-owned exploration company ONGC on Tuesday, a day before it was alleged that an attempt was being made to bypass Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in getting an extension for former Chairman of ONGC Sudhir Vasudeva.

“There is no u-turn,” Mr. Moily said reacting to reports that his suggested candidate had been denied the job. “A non-issue has been made a big issue. Everything has been done in a transparent manner. Nothing has been hidden,” Mr Moily said, defending his move to seek an extension for Mr. Vasudeva. He said he was not backing a tainted or corrupt person.

Mr Sarraf replaces Mr Vasudeva, who turned 60 on Tuesday and is due to superannuate on Friday.

“He has not been indicted by vigilance department in any case so far and complaints pending are fresh or new ones that came after we proposed his extension,” Mr. Moily said. He said that a total of 19 complaints were made against Mr Vasudeva, of which the vigilance department has already dismissed nine. The post of Chairman and Managing Director of ONGC was advertised for in March 2012, Mr. Moily said. Pending vigilance clearances had delayed Mr. Vasudeva's appointment by eight months.

“Naturally, it is expected that it (delay) will be made up,” the Minister said, adding that he had written to Dr. Singh on November 2, 2013 seeking a one-year extension for Mr. Vasudeva.

At the same time, the selection process for a new Chairman also went on simultaneously. It zeroed in on Mr. Sarraf, the Managing Director of ONGC's overseas arm, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL).

The CVC cleared Mr Sarraf's name on December 24 and Mr. Moily approved of his candidature two days after that. On December 31, a proposal for appointing Mr Sarraf as new head of ONGC was sent to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), he said.

Mr. Moily clarified that the Ministry had sent to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) a proposal containing two sets of options – an extension for Mr. Vasudeva and an appointment of Mr. Sarraf. “DoPT was kept informed about vigilance issues,” he said.

Mr. Moily also said that Oil Secretary Vivek Rae had noted on the file that approved Mr. Sarraf's candidature that the proposal (to make him Chairman) will be effective from March 1, 2014 or a subsequent date, depending on whether extension for one-year is approved by ACC for Mr. Vasudeva.

On Wednesday, the ACC approved the appointment of Mr. Sarraf as the Chairman and Managing of ONGC.

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