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NA committee rejects proposal for weekly oil price revisions

August 08, 2012


On Tuesday, the ECC had approved the request of the PM ’s Adviser on Petroleum Dr Asim Hussain to revise petroleum prices on a weekly basis, overruling opposition from Ogra.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources has rejected a proposal for weekly price revision of oil products, and has instead directed the Petroleum Ministry to set prices on a monthly basis.

During a session here on Wednesday, the Petroleum Ministry informed the NA committee that the decision to revise prices weekly was taken on a trial basis for three months keeping the consumers’ interests in mind.

However, the NA committee rejected the decision. The committee also rejected any hikes in prices of petroleum products.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had approved the request of the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Petroleum Dr Asim Hussain to revise petroleum prices on a weekly basis, overruling opposition from the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra).

Ogra had reported that price revision from a monthly to fortnightly basis had resulted in problems to consumers as retail outlets stopped selling products in anticipation of higher price to earn inventory gains and slowed down purchases from marketing companies in case of falling prices to avoid losses. It believed the weekly pricing would create more problems that would be even more difficult for the regulator to keep an eye on.

Members speak out against Ogra, ex-chief

During Wednesday’s meeting of the standing committee on petroleum, member Shehnaz Sheikh said that Ogra had “set up its own kingdom,” alleging that the authority had committed countless malpractices and acts of corruption with awarding licenses to CNG stations despite a ban.

Another member of the committee, PPP leader Jamshed Dasti said that the former Ogra chairman Tauqir Sadiq was a relative of PPP Secretary General Jahangir Badar, “which is why he could not be arrested.”

Dasti further said that it should be inquired from former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani why the licenses were issued despite a ban on the setting up of new CNG stations in the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday submitted to the Supreme Court a report in which former Ogra chairman Tauqir Sadiq has been accused of causing a loss of Rs83 billion to the national exchequer.

The NAB report alleged that Sadiq in collaboration with Member Gas Mansoor Muzaffar Ali and Member Finance Mir Kamal Marri had caused a loss of Rs44 billion to the national exchequer in the form of gas development surcharge. Under his stewardship Ogra also issued licences for opening 306 new CNG stations in 2009-10 and 170 in 2010-11 in violation of a ban imposed by the government in 2008 because of severe gas shortages.

According to the report, Sadiq also increased the benchmark of un-accounted for gas (UFG) from 4.5 to seven per cent against the global practices without explaining the basis and rationale for it which resulted in irrational and unjustified benefits to gas companies. A loss of Rs87.28 million was caused by illegal stay orders in gas theft cases by Mansoor Ali, of which Rs56.46 million is still recoverable.

The report said the exchequer had suffered an estimated loss of Rs22 billion because Ogra increased well-head gas price from $2.80 per mmbtu to $3.9 for Dewan Petroleum Limited.

The NAB officer informed the court that Rs13.27 million had also been paid to lawyers to defend Sadiq in a fake degree case.

Sadiq is said to be a close relative of PPP’s Secretary General Senator Jahangir Badar.