The Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Authority, Indar Maharaj, has been appointed as President of the National Gas Company (NGC) and is due to assume the position on April 3. aharaj’s appointment followed the decision by the NGC board not to renew the contract of 63-year-old, Andrew McIntosh, the husband of Patricia McIntosh, an Opposition Member of Parliament. In an interview on Monday, Maharaj, 53, dismissed the notion that politics was involved in him getting the job at the NGC, maintaining that he went through the process and did what he had to do in order to get the job.
“There was an advertisement in the newspaper and I applied for the job. I was interviewed by HRC and then that led to other interviews. I knew some of the other people who had applied and they are very talented so I had to be good and I did what I had to do to ensure I got the first offer,” said Maharaj. HRC Associates is the executive recruitment company run by Hollick Rajkumar. The new NGC President added that while he had political views, these were not set in stone and when he takes up the job early next month he will not be taking the politics to his work. He asked: “The last NGC president is married to a Member of Parliament, does that make him political? I don’t think so.”
Maharaj, speaking candidly, said Trinidad and Tobago is a small country and he, like many other people, knows a lot of people in the politics. “We live in Trinidad and Tobago which is a small society and it is inevitable that we will know people in various political parties. We can’t get away from that. But my views are independent because I don’t want anyone to feel that I will be going into the NGC with policical views. My role at the NGC is separate and apart from my political views and, as President, I will have a mandate that I will work out with the board and the management team. I was not born with UNC or PNM marked on my forehead.” Chairman of the NGC Larry Howai said there was no political interference in the choice and he said it if happened he was not involved.
“I can tell you with certainty that no one spoke to me on this matter because they know how I feel about these things. I don’t know if they spoke to anyone else but even if other people selected him for other reasons I am comfortable with the choice because I think it is a good choice.” Howai told the Business Guardian in a telephone interview.
He said the process was a transparent one in which HRC shortlisted six candidates, four of whom were locals and two foreigners. He said the board accepted the shortlist and only made one change which was that it would interview the locals first. Howai said it was then onto psychometric testing and there Maharaj scored better than the others in the test and in the areas that were dealt with in the test.
Howai said those areas included leadership, inter-personal relationships and strategic thinking with Maharaj scoring high marks in all those areas and proving to be the best fit for the organisation.
In addressing the fact that Maharaj had never been a CEO in his life, and that there was at least one other candidate who is currently a CEO, Howai said all the candidates had strong technical knowledge but the NGC board wanted someone who could lead without the support of a head office. He pointed to his own experience as the chief executive officer of state-owned banking group, First Citizens, in which he does not have the support of a head office in one of the world’s capitals as some of his competitors do. Howai said NGC needed someone who could work without the kinds of structure that a multi-national company might have. He said that the board worked hard to ensure the decision was transparent and it did its best.
On the question of why the board refused to renew McIntosh’s contract, he said the board was looking to the long-term future of the company and wanted someone who would be at the NGC for close to a decade. Maharaj, who celebrated his 53rd birthday on Tuesday, is a graduate of Presentation College and attended the University of the West Indies where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. He subsequently earned a post-graduate diploma in management before completing a Masters in Business Administration with a specialization in finance from Lincoln University in the United Kingdom. Mr Maharaj is married with two children both of whom are at University. He will be 53 on Tuesday March 20th. Mr Maharaj’s position is a permanent one and could be at the helm of the NGC until 2019. The new NGC President said he was well qualified to deal with the challenges that face the company including the shortage in natural gas to the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, the attempts by the NGC to invest in Africa and the issue of a new gas pricing policy.
Mr Maharaj said there were business challenges everyday and he will have to sit with the board and the management and plot a way forward. “I have my own ideas about how we can move forward but I want to first speak with my board and hear what the management has to say and do a gap analysis before I go forward,” Maharaj told the Guardian in a telephone interview on Monday.
Maharaj said he has worked on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate since 1981 when he was employed at the then Fertrin plant which has now become PCS Nitrogen. He said in the last 31 years he has gained significant middle and upper management experience and has moved away from the technical side to more emphasis on leadership and mentoring. He was last employed as the operations manager at Point Lisas Nitrogen Ltd, which was once the Farmland Misschem plant. The ammonia plant, which has an annual capacity of 650,000 metric tonnes, is now owned equally by Terra Nitrogen (Trinidad) Ltd, a subsidiary of CF Industries of Deerfield, Illinois and Koch Industries Inc.
Koch Industries, one of the biggest closely held companies in the world by revenue, is run by well-known, US Republic Party supporters, the billionaire brothers Charles, 76, and David Koch, 71, who each own 42 per cent of the conglomerate. Bloomberg Web-site’s recent tabulation of the world’s richest people placed the Koch brothers at number 8 with an estimated combined wealth of US$34 billion. According to a 51,000-word profile in the August 2010 edition of the New Yorker magazine, the annual revenues of Koch Industries are to be a US$100 billion. The magazine, which described the Koch’s as the billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama, said that the company had grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge.
“The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America.”