Udayavni Special

Govt likely to circumvent PESB route to fast-track hiring of directors at Air India

Team Udayavani, Jan 22, 2019, 6:57 AM IST

New Delhi: In order to fast-track the hiring of director-level executives at Air India, the Union Civil Aviation Ministry is likely to conduct the appointment process through its search-and-selection committee and not involve the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), according to a senior government official.

“Currently, many director-level positions — such as Director (Commercial), Director (Personnel) and Director (Operations) — are open in Air India. The government plans to fill them up as soon as possible using its search-and-selection committee,” the official said. 

Other executives in the company have been handling additional charge of these posts till date. 

“We would like people from private sector to apply. However, we will have to see how many people would be interested in these positions. We don’t have time to go through PESB route as it will be a long-winded process,” the official told PTI. 

Currently, PESB’s website lists Director (Commercial), Director (Personnel) and Director (Operations) as “upcoming vacancies”. The PESB is a committee of retired bureaucrats. 

On November 14 last year, the central government permitted the ministries to appoint board-level executives in public-sector companies, which are under ministries’ administrative control, without taking approval from PESB or Department of Public Enterprises (DPE). 

Generally, a ministry informs the PESB in advance about the position that is going to become vacant. The PESB then issues a vacancy and receives the applications in a certain time period. It then shortlists the candidates from the applicants and calls them for interview. 

The senior government official made it clear that the salary given to any hire – who comes from the private sector – would be equivalent to the ones who are currently working in Air India at that particular rank. 

“Prior concurrence of the DPE and PESB in order to fill up a board level post by the Search-cum-Selection Procedure mode instead of the standard PESB route to be dispensed with,” stated the November 14 memorandum of DPE.

“Such proposals for exemption may be considered directly by the ACC (Appointments Committee of Cabinet) without routing them through DPE and/or PESB, provided that the concerned administrative ministry records the reasons in writing with the approval of the Minister-in-charge, as to why such exemption is being proposed,” the memorandum added. 

The government plans to rope in professionals for top positions in Air India through a global search process as part of efforts to revive the national carrier, Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu told PTI in an interview last month.

With the proposed strategic stake sale of the Air India failing to take off in May last year, the government has been working on various initiatives, including hiving off a significant chunk of over Rs 55,000 crore debt into a special purpose vehicle, to turn-around the ailing airline.

In December 2018, the Union Civil Aviation Ministry told Lok Sabha that the government has prepared a revival plan for Air India.

A comprehensive financial package, including transfer of non-core debt and assets to a special purpose vehicle, implementation of robust organisational and governance reforms by the board and differentiated business strategies for each of the core businesses of Air India are part of the plan.

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