Ministry challenges PAC power to take suo motu notice of LNG issue

Published January 8, 2021
A member said the committee would take next move after an independent briefing. — Reuters/File
A member said the committee would take next move after an independent briefing. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Energy has challenged the jurisdiction of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to take suo motu notice of purported Rs122 billion losses caused by the indecision on timely import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in recent months.

After an in-camera session on Thursday, the parliamentary oversight body decided to invite a non-partisan expert of the energy sector for a briefing on the issue, though it also discussed summoning Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Petroleum Nadeem Babar. A member said the committee would take next move after an independent briefing.

The PAC meeting was scheduled to examine the audit report of the Energy Division on Thursday.

The committee had sought a report from the Energy Division on the said losses. At the outset of the PAC meeting, its chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain told the participants that the energy minister had written a letter challenging the suo motu powers of the committee.

Committee to seek briefing from non-partisan expert before further move

PAC member Raja Riaz suggested that an explanation should be sought from the minister and SAPM and that since the ministry was being run by the SAPM, the committee should summon him.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq suggested that an in-camera session should be convened to take a decision about summoning the minister and SAPM.

Subsequently, the committee held the in-camera session. Sources said that the committee could not take a decision about summoning the minister and SAPM as some members vehemently opposed the idea.

A member suggested that before summoning the minister and SAPM, the PAC should comprehend the issue and then make a decision.

Sources said that there was a suggestion to take a briefing from former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister Miftah Ismail and then decide about summoning Omar Ayub and Babar. However, it was finally decided that a neutral expert would be invited to give a briefing on the issue.

As per a news report, the reason for the losses was illogical delays in import of LNG and misguided decisions.

Before the in-camera session, Energy Secretary Asad Hayauddin briefed the committee on the losses as mentioned in the news report and said all relevant authorities had attended PAC meetings to assist the parliamentarians.

Commenting on the news item, he said that during the last three months, LNG worth only Rs35bn was imported and, therefore, there was no substance in the information regarding multi-billion losses.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2021

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