ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly asked the ministry of petroleum and natural resources on Tuesday to prepare a list of major gas thieves in the country.
And if the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), Buland Akhtar Rana, was right in his observation that the ministry was hiding its record regarding price differential claims (PDCs) for the oil marketing companies, in which federal auditors have suspected financial bungling of around Rs15 billion, the Principal Accounting Officer of the ministry, Dr Waqar Masood, will be having a hectic week ahead.
PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Gondal also asked him to sit with the audit people for reconciliation of accounts.
Addressing the chief executives of the SNGPL and SSGC, the chairman said the committee was interested in knowing who were the major gas thieves and what action the gas companies had taken against them. The companies were asked to provide the list within 10 days.
Mr Gondal said every now and then cases of gas theft were highlighted in the media, “let’s put on record the names of the big fish who have been involved in this crime”.
In reply to a question about the shortage of natural gas, Dr Masood said there was hardly enough gas in the system to meet the ever-increasing demand of domestic users.
“Whatever gas is left from domestic usage is provided to the industry and CNG sector on a rotational basis,” he said.
He said only strategic industry under the defence ministry received uninterrupted supply of gas and other industries faced an acute shortage.
But Mr Gondal said he knew of some private industries owned by influential people that were also receiving non-stop supply of gas. The assertion was neither denied nor accepted by the deputy general manger of the SNGPL.
The PAC asked the companies to submit in writing that an even-handed policy for gas distribution was in place.
The AGP informed the committee that, according to audit observation, the ministry was hiding record because it had committed serious irregularities in the PDCs.
The AGP said ‘bungling’ appeared to have been committed in various departments of the ministry which the auditors had pointed out in a special audit report.
“Now when we want to carry out a comprehensive audit of the ministry of petroleum and natural resources, it is not cooperating with us.”
In response, the ministry’s officials, led by Dr Masood, contested the AGP’s assertions about financial mismanagement and promised to provide necessary documents to the auditors.
Yasmin Rehman of the PPP said the petroleum ministry was one of the important government departments and was supposed to maintain high standards of financial discipline.
The AGP also objected to handsome payments which the board members of the SNGPL, SSGC, OGDCL and the PSO got on the eve of their meetings. The committee was told that the board members of these organisations were paid Rs25,000 to Rs40,000 under the head of ‘out of pocket expenses’ per meeting, besides their lodging and dining expenditures. Dr Masood said the boards were authorised to award the allowance.
The PAC asked the AGP to determine if the organisations were legally justified in facilitating their board members in such a superfluous manner.