PAC orders probe into PTI claims over cheaper Russian oil

Our Correspondent
Thursday, Jun 23, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Public Accounts Committee Noor Alam Khan on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the claims of the PTI government that it was holding negotiations on the purchase of cheaper oil from Russia.

The PAC, in its meeting, also considered the issue of irregularities of over Rs56 billion in contracts related to the supply of petrol and diesel by PSO. Chairman PAC Noor Alam Khan directed for issuing Interpol’s red warrants forthe former MDs and general managers of PSO and PPL who had fled abroad.

The PAC was also informed that the circular debt of the energy sector has reached Rs4 trillion (Rs4,000 billion). Of this, Rs2.5 trillion (Rs2,500 billion) belongs to the power sector and Rs1.5 trillion (Rs1,500 billion) to the gas sector. However, the overall circular debt of the power sector and gas companies is increasing.

The meeting of the PAC was presided over by Chairman Noor Alam Khan in which the audit paras relating to the Petroleum Division for the financial year 2019-20 were examined. Regarding the claims of the PTI government of contracting cheaper Russian oil, Chairman PAC Noor Alam Khan inquired from the Petroleum Division of the Ministry of Energy whether any agreement was reached and whether any money was allocated or given for it.

PTI member Senator Shibli Faraz said that the PTI government had started talks with Russia and would tell the committee about the fate of the talks. At this, the chairman PAC sought the documents, if any, that were exchanged with Russia. PAC member Senator Talha Mehmood also demanded an investigation into the oil import from Russia, at which the chairman PAC ordered an inquiry.

While the panel was examining the audit paras related to irregularities of over Rs56 billion in contracts related to the supply of petrol and diesel by PSO, the secretary energy informed it that former MD PSO Naeem Yahya Mir, and Senior General Manager Zulfiqar Jafri made agreements against the rules. Noor Alam Khan sought details of the properties of the MD, GMs PSO who have fled after corruption, which would eventually be shared with the NAB. At this, chairman PAC asked for contacting Interpol to issue their red warrants to enable their repatriation and also directed registering an FIR against them.

Regarding the increasing circular debt of the gas and power sector, the secretary Energy Division told the committee that local companies have also stopped investing due to rising circular debt in the gas sector. The chairman PAC said that OGRA has failed to provide facilities to exploration companies due to which no investment was being made. The PAC has sought a briefing from the secretary Petroleum Division, secretary energy, secretary finance and other officials on the issue of circular debt in the energy sector today (Thursday).

While examining of non-recovery of bills from 57,565 gas consumers, the official of the Ministry of Energy told the committee that out of Rs20 billion, Rs14 billion had been recovered. Secretary Petroleum Division told the committee that K-Electric owes Rs126 billion of SSGC. The PAC has summoned the K-Electric to its next meeting on this issue.

While examining the delay in setting up of gas processing facility, the FIA investigating the case told the committee that Syed Wamiq Bukhari was the MD PPL has now gone abroad. Senator Talha Mehmood claimed Syed Wamiq Bukhari ran away with more than Rs9 billion. At this, chairman PAC asked to contact Interpol to issue his red warrants to enable his repatriation and directed registering an FIR.

Examining the audit paras regarding the gas losses of over Rs39 billion due to poor performance in SSGCL, secretary Petroleum Division said the losses in terms of Unaccounted For Gas Losses have now reduced.

The MD SSGCL told the committee that there are 700,000 illegal gas connections in Karachi and OGRA has given permission to install meters there. “Losses in Karachi have been reduced from 13% to 10%,” he told the committee. He told the committee that line losses are higher in Balochistan. The chairman PAC remarked that the people of Balochistan do not get royalty or gas. The secretary petroleum has the first right to gas from the province from which the gas comes. Senator Talha Mehmood questioned why there was gas loadshedding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as according to the Constitution, the need of the province which has gas must be met first. The secretary Energy Division told the committee that there is no capacity to provide gas connection to 100pc of households as only 27% of households have a gas connection through gas pipelines. “No new demand notices are being issued,” the secretary energy told the committee.