Heads of two utilities sacked over gas crisis

Updated January 10, 2019

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An earlier fact-finding committee headed by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority chairperson Uzma Adil Khan had not blamed the two companies or their heads for the shortage in its report. ─ DawnNewsTV
An earlier fact-finding committee headed by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority chairperson Uzma Adil Khan had not blamed the two companies or their heads for the shortage in its report. ─ DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ordered the removal of managing directors of the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) over the gas crisis that gripped Punjab and Sindh last month.

The “prime minister has announced immediate removal of heads of Sui Southern and Sui Northern from their posts” in view of a report of an inquiry committee, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said in a statement.

The committee had been constituted by the prime minister to fix responsibility for problems faced by the consumers due to gas shortage in recent days. The committee submitted its report to the PM on Tuesday.

Imran Khan takes decision in the light of inquiry into recent gas shortages

Following his orders, the petroleum division asked the boards of directors of the two companies to immediately hold meetings on Thursday to implement the prime minister’s orders as required under the corporate governance rules for the public sector entities.

Informed sources said the top-most officials of the petroleum division bid farewell to SNGPL managing director Amjad Latif at the federal secretariat where he attended a board meeting and expressed their sympathy with him over a sudden decision of the prime minister though the gas import and allocation policies rested with the federal government.

The information minister’s statement has attributed the prime minister’s decision to the review of the report submitted by the committee tasked with probing the ongoing gas supply crisis, which has rapidly escalated across the country over the past few months.

On Dec 12, 2018, the prime minister had ordered an inquiry into the dwindling supply of gas which forced industry closures in Punjab and Karachi and affected residential and commercial consumers. The petroleum division had blamed the two companies for concealment of related information from the government.

Interestingly, the petroleum division subsequently told the prime minister that shortfall was also contributed by two additional factors — gas allocations to fertiliser and export industry for the first time in winter followed by closure of a liquefied natural gas terminal for maintenance.

In these matters, the decision-making and planning lie with federal ministries and forums and the SNGPL and the SSGCL have no role in it.

The petroleum minister had reported that a drop in gas production in the southern fields of Kunnar Pasakhi and Gambat caused problems in Karachi, and faults in gas compressors at Nawabshah and Saran created shortages in the north. “SNGPL did not report gas demand and supply shortfall in December accurately to the government, and SSGCL failed to inform the government about faults in the compressors in a timely manner,” he said.

Data of the gas flows is on display on a round the clock basis in the petroleum division, showing real time situation of gas intake from various sources and outflow to various customers.

The petroleum division has said the specific allegations against the managing directors of the SNGPL and the SSGCL include negligence in reporting of facts to the ministry or incompetence to deal with operational issues, withholding of information from the government and overall systematic failure of the two companies.

An earlier fact-finding committee headed by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority chairperson Uzma Adil Khan had not blamed the two companies or their heads for the shortage in its report.

A subsequent report prepared by the additional secretary in-charge had also left the conclusion open-ended, leaving the decision to the prime minister, the information minister had said on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019