The screening process for candidates to replace Ari H Soemarno, the embattled PT Pertamina boss, is nearing its end, says a minister.
State Minister for State Enterprises Sofyan Djalil said late Monday a team comprising himself and other ministers had completed the fit and proper tests and the final say will be in the hands of another team, called the final appraisal team (TPA), which is chaired by President Susilo Bambang.
"We, myself, bu Ani (a nickname for Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati) and pak Purnomo (Yusgiantoro, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister) have discussed this issue. We will make a presentation to the TPA, which will have the final say," Sofyan said.
He refused to name the candidates, or to confirm names already circulating in the media over the past week.
He just said that more than five people have been interviewed in the fit and proper test, both internal and external to Pertamina.
Among the names repeatedly mentioned were: Erry Rijana Hardjapamekas, former deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, chairman of the Aceh Reconstruction Agency (BRR-Aceh) and Gita Wirjawan, co-chairman of Ancora Capital Management.
From within Pertamina, such names as Achmad Faisal, marketing director, and Karen Agustiawan, upstream director, have also been mentioned.
"Final evaluation will be by the TPA, although there is no time to meet just yet.
"If the TPA has the time to meet and discuss this issue this week, then the inauguration (of the new Pertamina boss) could be held immediately afterwards," Sofyan said.
Pertamina has been under fire in the past few months over fuel shortages in gas stations and the slow progress of the kerosene-to-liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) program.
President Yudhoyono publicly criticized Pertamina's handling of fuel shortages, leading to speculations that Ari's days in Pertamina were numbered.
An explosion at Plumpang, the nation's vital fuel depot, last month only made things even worse for Ari, even though he has backing from Vice President Kalla, also chairman of the Golkar Party , the country's largest political machine, which currently holds most seats in the House of Representatives .
With Kalla, also a member of TPA, currently on a long overseas trip, it remains to be seen what decision the TPA will take.
Ari has been in charge of running Pertamina since March 2006 and became the seventh Pertamina boss in the last decade, reflecting many political nuances.
Pertamina is the most profitable state enterprise, contributing each year around 50 percent of the total dividends paid out by state companies to state coffers.
Sofyan refused to be drawn on such political nuances, saying that: "What we really want is what is best for Pertamina. Someone who can take the company forward and achieve even better things."
Sofyan also said that a replacement could also occur for the post of vice president director.
"The replacement is for president director, that's the minimum. Maximum change could include the vice president director ."