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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet has directed Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) to redefine punitive measures and make them more stringent against illegalities, irregularities by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs), including figure fudging, to show fake supplies, establishing illegal petrol pumps, sale of smuggled & adulterated products, etc.

The Cabinet gave go-ahead signal to Ogra on Report of the Inquiry Commission on shortage of Petroleum products. Prime Minister Special Assistant on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar resigned soon after the press conference of a four-member Ministerial Committee comprising Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiates, Asad Umar, who first asked Babar to resign and then reached his residence in the evening to show solidarity with him.

Referring to the Report of the Inquiry Commission on shortage of Petroleum products, the Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Asad Umar briefed the forum that the Cabinet in its meeting on December 15, 2020, constituted a Committee comprising the Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives (Convener), the Minister for Federal Education & Professional Training, the Minister for Human Rights, the Minister for Railways and the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability & Interior, to make recommendations on the administrative and policy actions that were needed to be taken in the light of the findings of the report. He revealed that the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability & Interior Shahzad Akbar did not participate in the deliberations due to an oversight regarding his inclusion in the Committee.

It was apprised that the Committee, after having carried out a detailed review of the findings and recommendations of the above referred Report, recommended as follows: (i) The following matters may be referred for forensic investigation to FIA to unearth evidence/proof of criminal act/intent, with the direction to submit its report within 90 days; (ii) failure to maintain minimum 20-day stocks as per the licence requirement of OMCs over a prolonged period; (iii)failure to ensure lifting of products by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) from local refineries as per PRM decisions of February, March & April; (iv) failure to ensure implementation of PRM decisions regarding imports; (v) apparent maneuvering of berthing plan of vessels; (vi) fake sales, hoarding and discrepancies between the reported and actual supplies to retail outlets by OMCs; (vii) illegalities regarding provisional marketing licences to OMCs, unlawful JVs and hospitalities, illegal private storages and illegal retail outlets; (viii) inquiry into the affairs of BYCO Refinery and OMC regarding MT Rhea, MT Elsa and reported involvement in sale of illegal petroleum products; and (ix) inquiry of companies involved in adulteration of petroleum products.

The Cabinet was informed that the following issues required legislative and policy changes to fix the gaps in law, regulations and policies: (i) in the legislative sphere, the Committee recommended that the Ogra Ordinance 2002 may be reviewed to remove the ambiguity regarding the roles and responsibilities of the Petroleum Division and the regulator. The task may be assigned to Ministry of Law, Petroleum Division and Cabinet Division; (ii) redefining punitive measures and measures to make them more stringent against illegalities, irregularities by the OMCs like figure fudging to show fake supplies, establishing illegal petrol pumps, sale of smuggled and adulterated products, etc. Ogra will take lead in this regard; (iii) construction of strategic storages of refined products and crude oil; and (iv) upgradation of outdated refineries with modern technology to reduce cost, increase efficiency and provision of environment friendly products to the people of Pakistan.

The Cabinet was informed that the following matters required administrative actions by the Petroleum Division, the Maritime Affairs Division and Ogra to address the shortcomings in the present system: (i) removal/transfer of officers of Directorate General of Oil identified in the report; (ii) removal/transfer of relevant officers of Port Authority who were involved in the alleged delay in berthing of ships; (iii) appointment of professional officers on technical positions (such as DG Oil) through objective criteria be ensured; (iv) creation of a Monitoring Cell in the Petroleum Division, for reliable data collection, analysis and decision-making, to do away with reliance on OCAC; and (v) establishment of new, testing labs, able to test all petroleum products, and mandatory testing or imported petroleum products.

The committee also recommended that in the interest of propriety, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Petroleum may step down from his role and the Secretary Petroleum may be asked to report to the Establishment Division. This step will ensure that the investigations were not marred by any accusation of undue influence.

The Cabinet approved the report of the Committee constituted to give recommendations on the administrative and policy actions that were needed to be taken in the light of the findings of the "Report of the Inquiry Commission to probe into the recent shortage of petroleum products in the county and matter related or incidental thereto" and directed that timelines for policy, administrative and legal changes be worked out and presented for approval of the Cabinet, by the Petroleum Division.

The Cabinet appreciated the members of the Committee for an effective analysis of the Report.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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