ISLAMABAD: Tauqeer Sadiq, the former chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) who is the main accused in a major scam, has told the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) that a decision to increase the limit of unaccounted-for gas (UFG) losses for the utility companies had been taken in consultation with then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, petroleum minister Syed Naveed Qamar and adviser Dr Asim Hussain.
In his statement recorded on July 15, he said several meetings were held in this regard when he was the Ogra chief, Mr Qamar was the petroleum minister and later Dr Hussain was the adviser.
The handwritten statement in Urdu, submitted in reply to questions asked during the investigation, highlights his lifestyle and sources of income while he was abroad after escaping from the country.
He claimed that he had settled the pending issue of UFG for the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL). “The demand for increasing the UFG by the gas companies was there for many years, but I was able to decide the case when I was the chairman of the authority.”
Mr Sadiq is suspected of causing a loss of Rs82 billion to the national exchequer when he was head of Ogra between 2009 and 2011. He fled abroad after the Supreme Court declared his appointment illegal on Nov 25, 2011, and ordered NAB to begin an investigation against him.
Mr Sadiq said the decision to increase the UFG had been taken after consulting the authorities, including the prime minister and the petroleum ministry.
He said he had given briefings to then prime minister Gilani in the presence of several ministers and federal secretaries. The MDs of both gas companies had also briefed the authorities on the subject.
He said there was no irregularity and all authorities concerned were in the loop. “Even the MDs of the SSGC and the SNGPL gave a presentation in a meeting with the prime minister.”
Mr Sadiq said the companies had pleaded that they would go bankrupt if the UFG losses were not increased.
He mentioned Mirza Mehmood, the counsel for both the gas companies and also a board member of the SNGPL.
“I have known Mirza Mehmood in various capacities for the past 20 years. He pleaded the case of UFG and non- operating income with Ogra.”
He said Ogra had taken the decision after reviewing all record presented by the petitioners.
Tauqeer Sadiq said the companies had claimed that if the UFG was not increased, their operations would become unaffordable and the consumers would suffer.
He cited some observations given by Ogra under him to underscore that he was not lenient towards the companies.
In reply to a question about his escape, Mr Sadiq said he was afraid of persecution and had fled to the UAE. Travelling on a green passport, he later moved to Sri Lanka, making a living as a legal expert there and in the UAE after August last year as he was a lawyer by profession.
The charges framed by NAB are that Ogra increased the UFG benchmark from 4.5 per cent to 7pc and reclassified some heads from ‘operating income to non-operating income’.
NAB investigators informed courts that by describing certain heads as non- operating income a royalty of Rs3.68bn from the JJVL Company, late surcharge of Rs1.59bn on payment of bills and profit of Rs424 million on meter manufacturing would not be part of the operating expenditures of the SSGC, which would cause a loss to the government as the profits would go to the shareholders.
Because of the increase in the UFG, consumers would have to pay an additional Rs3.61bn to adjust gas theft and losses, they said.
After recording the preliminary statement of Mr Sadiq, NAB has expanded the scope of the investigation to fix responsibility for insider trading in the stock market in the shares of the SSGC and SNGPL where billions of rupees were whisked away, an official said.
The SSGC managing director and counsel for both gas companies recorded their statements on Thursday and defended the UFG hike.