10 years on: Lahore cylinder blast victims go unpaid

OGRA fails to make payouts among heirs of the deceased


Qamar Zaman January 28, 2016
OGRA fails to make payouts among heirs of the deceased. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:


The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) silently grabbed Rs2.68 million as compensation from a company but failed to disburse it among the families of over two dozen victims, who died in a gas cylinder explosion in Lahore more than 10 years ago.


This transpired on Wednesday during a meeting of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whose chairman, Khursheed Shah, was informed by Ogra Chairman Saeed Ahmed Khan that his happened due to ‘a mistake’.

Interestingly, the authority had shown the compensation money as its income in 2012-13.

According to details, at least 30 people were killed in an LPG cylinder explosion on May 3, 2005 in Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Town. Later, M/s Anoud Gas (formerly M/s Eirad Gas) was found responsible for the accident and the authority received Rs2.68 million from Eirad Gas.

This amount was to be distributed among the affectees on producing succession certificates. And the authority did pay a total of Rs300,000 to three victims while Rs25,000 was paid to an injured. However, no compensation was made after this initial payment.

Appearing before the PAC, Ogra chairman shifted the blame to district administration Lahore, saying the deputy commissioner was supposed to furnish a list of victims but he ‘never provided it’. In addition, he said, there were some cases in the court about succession which contributed to this delay.

“Who took the decision to pay a mere Rs100,000 to the deceased?” asked the PkMAP’s lawmaker Mehmood Khan Achakzai. Later, the PAC directed Ogra to come up with a detailed report on the matter in three days.

The committee also took exception to the fact that Ogra made advance payment of Rs1.38 million – or 55 per cent of the total fee – as cost of study to an unauthorised consultant to carry out Unaccounted for Natural Gas (UFG) study. PTI’s Shafqat Mehmood pointed out that there was no practice at all of paying 55 per cent money in advance.

The PAC chairman also directed Ogra to hold an inquiry into UFG losses and submit a report within four weeks. Shah observed that the UFG losses were around 11 per cent, which, the members said, was a really big number.



During the course of discussion, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed of the AML asked Ogra chairman whether the authority was aware of the compressors being used by domestic consumers to pump in gas. He also asked what action it had taken against this illegal activity. The Ogra chief, however, said taking action against this practice was not part of the regulator’s job.

Earlier, the committee ordered an independent inquiry into construction of girls hostel at Lahore’s National College of Arts (NCA). The cost of the project has increased from Rs315,000 to Rs8,000,000 and resulted in extra amount of Rs7.68 million from the PC-I.

“Is there a project in the country in which cost increased by 2,440%?” asked Achakzai.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Dr Ismail Shah informed the committee that chances for recovery of Rs22.13 billion from a former telecommunication company, Instaphone, were very slim. He said the license of Instaphone was cancelled and the case was pending with National Accountability Bureau (NAB)

“The PTA has receivables of Rs41.708 billion against 182 operators,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th,  2016.

 

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