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A time to be hopeful

Kattalai Ramachandran Sriram now leads ITER's Finance, Budget & Management Directorate. (Click to view larger version...)
Kattalai Ramachandran Sriram now leads ITER's Finance, Budget & Management Directorate.
"Without denying the challenges," states Kattalai Ramachandran Sriram, "it is a time to be hopeful."

Sriram arrived on the day of his birthday, 25 February, to take over ITER's Finance, Budget & Management Directorate. He comes from the offices of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India where—with the exception of a six-year secondment to the Information Technology (IT) Audit Office in the Gulf state of Oman—he spent twenty-five years (1987-2012) specializing in performance and IT auditing.

Trained in electronics and communication engineering, with a Master's in Business Administration, he joined the Comptroller and Auditor General of India because of the "great scope" offered by a career in the civil services and an interest in improving public and financial accountability. Over the years he successfully passed certification in auditing IT systems, internal auditing, and cost and management auditing.

He fulfilled auditing missions in civil aviation, hydrocarbons and rural development, internalizing the three "e's" of the performance auditor along the way: Is the organization achieving its objectives effectively, maximizing its outputs (given the inputs) efficiently and managing its finances economically? 

These "e's" were applied by Sriram and his four-person team to the Management Assessment of the ITER Organization in 2011. Leading this team, he says, was an experience that he looks back on as a privilege—never before had he had the charge to conduct an assessment of such a large-scale international scientific organization. He interviewed over 50 ITER employees and became familiar with ITER's organization and internal processes: "The goal," he says, "was to meet with a member of every division, section and sub-section."

On the challenge of ITER's in-kind procurement, the system by which ITER Members are all involved with the manufacturing of ITER components—in some cases exactly the same components—Sriram remarks: "For the ITER project, in-kind procurement is a challenge. Not a problem, not an issue, but a challenge."

From the beginning, he explains, ITER was established as a scientific collaboration. "It was perfectly legitimate for all participating Members to wish to build up their own scientific and industrial capacities." The challenge for the ITER Organization and the Domestic Agencies now, he says, is to ensure commonality of interests. He's seen one very positive change since the Assessment—the Unique ITER Team established last year. "This is exactly the way to do things ... a real improvement in processes."

As head of Finance, Budget & Management, Sriram will be leading the Finance & Budget Division, the Project Information System Section (IT), and the System Management Section (SMS) ... a very interesting "menu" of responsibilities. His 25-year career has left him well versed in financial management and IT—areas that interact extensively. And he sees great potential in the recent SMS group and its improvement program, which is already delivering value to the ITER Organization.

Sriram looks forward to the challenges and rewards of working in a multicultural environment. How can an organization integrate the best aspects of very diverse working styles and ensure that value is delivered? "Based on what I have seen and experienced, it is a time to be hopeful for the organization and the project."

return to Newsline #261