New Delhi: A day after his suggested candidate was denied a post-retirement extension, oil minister M.Veerappa Moily on Thursday defended seeking extension for Sudhir Vasudeva as chairman of ONGC, saying he was not backing a tainted or corrupt person.

“A non-issue has been made a big issue. Everything has been done in a transparent manner. Nothing has been hidden," he said in his first comments after government appointed D.K. Sarraf as the new head of ONGC, the nation’s most profitable firm. Sarraf replaces Vasudeva, who turned 60 on Tuesday and is due to superannuate on Friday.

Moily said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed on papers appointing Sarraf as new chairman of ONGC on 25 February, a day before it was alleged that an attempt was being made to bypass Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in getting Vasudeva an extension.

“There is no u-turn...Don’t do dishonour to him (Vasudeva)... he is not a tainted person and not that we have hushed up things.

“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," he said. Moily said a total of 19 cases or complaints were made against Vasudeva, of which the vigilance department has dismissed nine. “While technically 10 complaints are open, many of them were received recently," he said suggesting “aggrieved parties" may have raised them.

Giving out chronology of events that began with advertising for the post of chairman and managing director of ONGC in March last year, Moily said Vasudeva’s appointment as head of ONGC was delayed by 8 months because of delay in vigilance clearance.

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

Simultaneously, the process of selecting new chairman continued with government head-hunters PESB identifying Sarraf, who at present is the managing director of ONGC’s overseas arm, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL).

Sarraf’s name was cleared by anti-corruption watchdog CVC on 24 December and Moily approved of his candidature two days later.

On 31 December, a proposal for appointing Sarraf as new head of ONGC was sent to the department of personnel and training (DoPT), he said.

Moily quoted oil secretary Vivek Rae’s comments on the file approving Sarraf’s candidature that “the proposal (to make him chairman) will be effective from 1 March 2014 or subsequent date, depending on whether extension for one-year is approved by ACC (Appointments Committee of Cabinet) for Vasudeva."

The ministry, he said, had forwarded to ACC a proposal containing two sets of options — give Vasudeva an extension or appoint Sarraf. “DoPT was kept informed about vigilance issues," he said.