In complete contravention of guidelines requiring a mandatory clearance from the Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) for appointments or extensions of board-level executives in public sector companies, the ministry of mines has given repeated extensions to BL Bagra, chief of the National Aluminium Company (NALCO), who has been on repeated extensions since February 2012 when he was slated to retire.
Bagra got the extensions despite not having clearance from the CVC and against a termination order issued by minister for mines Dinsha Patel making his a rare case in India where a top public sector undertaking chief has been given numerous extensions without vigilance clearance and against the minister’s wishes.
Documents with DNA show that that CVC-recognised whistleblowers have raised issues pertaining to Bagra’s alleged involvement in department promotion committee scams.
A proposal for giving nine months’ extension to Bagra as director (finance) & chairman and managing director (CMD) in-charge was mooted by the mines ministry in January 2012. In response to the proposal, the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), DoPT, on February 29 intimated it that an extension for only three months from February 28 was approved. It directed the ministry to take a decision on a pending inquiry against Bagra in a lean slurry corruption case within this time.
The ACC’s directive further said that if a CVC enquiry is not completed within three months, no further extension would be granted to Bagra.
The lean slurry case pertains to the awarding of a Rs108-crore contract to a little-known company for ferrying slurry ash from NALCO’s mines — a job that requires tremendous technical expertise.
Shockingly, the proposal was sent to the CVC only on May 11, just days before his extended tenure was to end on May 27. Knowing well that the CVC clearance was not expected immediately, bureaucrats in the ministry gave the extension themselves.
Naresh Kumar, joint secretary, ministry of mines, wrote to ACC on May 18, 2012 proposing an extension saying, “Bagra is being allowed to continue as director (finance) & CMD beyond May 27, 2012 till further intimation from ACC…”
Documents with DNA show that the ACC gave its clearance only on July 7, long after the tenure was to have ended. “If this is allowed, this will become a trend and every ministry will start giving extensions on its own. This is total disregard for the system as there is neither vigilance clearance nor permission from ACC,” said Ashok Rath, former executive director (ED), NALCO.
For its part, the ACC went against its own decision of February 28 and gave clearance for an extension till August 28, without the CVC’s clearance.
The mines ministry sought an extension beyond August 28 too. When the proposal was sent to the Dinsha Patel, minister of mines (independent charge), he wrote back on August 16 saying it was not prudent to send the proposal to ACC for further extension without CVC clearance .
Arun Kumar, joint secretary & CVO for the mines ministry wrote to the minister the next day, with an ‘option’ that three months’ extension be given to him. Incidentally, the NALCO CVO had raised the issue of Bagra’s alleged involvement in a Rs15crore scam in lime procurement. Arun Kumar is yet to examine the findings of the NALCO CVO and forward the matter to the CVC. The minister eventually wrote on August 27 that the ACC be moved for termination of Bagra’s tenure.
Despite this, the ACC mysteriously gave an extension till December 31, 2012. A further extension has been suggested too.
When contacted, Bagra said the CVC has not given any negative advice yet, and therefore the ministry’s extensions to his tenure were proper. “CVO, ministry of mines, has given me a clean chit though the CVC has sought some clarification. Once that is over, I hope CVC will come out with a directive soon,” Bagra said.