LAHORE: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has approached the cabinet division, seeking its intervention for the reversal of an order by a sub-committee of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to carry out the audit of the regulatory functions of the authority.
Ogra contends that the AGP does not have authority to carry out the audit of the regulatory functions (of any regulator) because the country’s Constitution, the AG Ordinance 2001 and the Ogra Ordinance 2002 limit the scope of his/her powers to the extent of conduct of audit of the accounts of Ogra (and other regulatory bodies).
In a letter addressed to cabinet division’s secretary, Ogra chairperson Uzma Adil Khan has urged him to take up the issue with the chairman of the sub-committee for revocation of his order in the light of the provisions of law and the Constitution. The letter says the matter could also be referred to the law and justice ministry for interpretation of legal position of the AGP’s powers to conduct performance audit of regulators and, if need be, to the PAC in the interest of law and justice.
Seeks reversal of an order issued by a sub-committee of the PAC
The PAC sub-committee had on Monday ordered the AGP to carry out a performance audit of the regulatory functions of Ogra despite strong opposition from its chairperson.
Ogra contends that the joint reading of Section 15(2) of the Auditor General Ordinance 2001 and Section 17(3) of the Ogra Ordinance 2002 concludes that the extent and scope of the audit is limited to the accounts of the authority only as the regulatory functions of the authority do not fall within its scope. “Anything beyond this scope would be without jurisdiction and without lawful authority,” the Ogra chairperson holds.
The Article 170(2) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, according to the Ogra letter, also stipulates the “audit of the accounts of the federal and of the provincial governments and the accounts of any authority or body established by, or under the control of, the federal or provincial government shall be conducted by the Auditor General, who shall determine the extent and nature of such audit”.
Officials told Dawn on Saturday that the Ogra Ordinance 2002 binds the authority to submit a report to the federal government, which according to the Supreme Court interpretation consists of the prime minister and the federal cabinet, on the conduct of its affairs for a given financial year, including anticipated developments for the following financial year, and a report on the state of the petroleum industry in Pakistan, in so far as it relates to regulated activities, identifying the ownership, operation, management, control, efficiency and cost of regulated activities, amount of production, transportation, transmission and distribution capacity, present and future domestic demand for petroleum and other matters related to regulated activities. Also, the federal government may direct the authority to supply any return, statement, estimate, statistics or other information regarding any matter under it.
“Since AGP is not part of the federal (government) as interpreted by the apex court, it cannot demand any information related to the regulatory functions of Ogra or any other regulatory entity,” said an official.
He said the sub-committee’s order to the AGP for carrying out performance audit of its functions would undermine the autonomy of the regulatory bodies and cause disruption in their functioning.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2019