Frankly Speaking: Consider board appointments with care

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 31, 2020 - September 06, 2020.
Frankly Speaking: Consider board appointments with care
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Datuk Ibrahim Baki’s recent appointment as a director of Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has raised eyebrows among the oil and gas fraternity.

For one, while Ibrahim is not a prominent mainstream politician, he is the deputy secretary-general and supreme council member of Sarawak-based Parti Pesaka Bumiputera.

Since when have politicians been appointed to the national oil corporation’s board?

Note that Ibrahim is also executive chairman and non-independent director of Hubline Bhd, with a shareholding of 11.09% in the shipping company.

Last October, Hubline CEO and managing director Dennis Ling Li Kuang was quoted in new reports as saying that the company was eyeing long-term contracts with the Sarawak government and Petronas for the transport of methanol products from an RM8 billion plant that is set to come onstream in Tanjung Kidurong, Bintulu, in 2023.

While there should not be any objection to Petronas appointing a director from Sarawak, maybe it should consider a candidate with no conflict of interest.

Even though Ibrahim may not be involved in the award of contracts to Hubline, or declare his interest upon joining the board, a director with a major stake in a company bidding for deals with Petronas may make some uneasy.

As the guardian of the country’s oil and gas assets, Petronas must hold itself to a higher standard of governance.

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