Top court orders three-year audit of PSO

Published: July 15, 2018
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Cars queue at a PSO pump. PHOTO: AFP

Cars queue at a PSO pump. PHOTO: AFP

Cars queue at a PSO pump. PHOTO: AFP Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered authorities concerned on Saturday to conduct a three-year audit of the Pakistan State Oil’s (PSO) bidding and oil purchase process to uncover any possible financial irregularities.

Hearing a suo motu case about exorbitant taxes on petroleum products, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the Auditor-General of Pakistan and international auditors KPMG to audit PSO’s tendering, importing and pricing mechanisms for the past three years. The firm would charge Rs4.3 million and complete the audit in five weeks.

The three-member bench, headed by the CJP, ordered PSO and other departments concerned to cooperate with the firm during the audit.

During the previous hearing, PSO’s Managing Director Sheikh Imranul Haque had briefed the bench about the PSO’s oil import process. He had maintained that the process was transparent and in accordance with the rules.

Expressing dissatisfaction, the CJP called for an independent audit of the process to unearth wrongdoings.

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A report was also submitted about the appointment of Haque as PSO’s head in September 2015. The CJP had sought the report after he learnt that Haque was drawing a salary package of Rs3.7 million.

“Even banks do not pay their presidents this much. A grade-22 officer gets a salary of around Rs200,000,” the CJP had remarked. “It is not more than what I was getting in my previous job,” Haque tried to explain, adding that heads working for PSO’s peer companies such as Shell, APL and OGDCL were getting higher salaries.

When he tried to point out how much they were drawing in salaries, the CJP remarked: “This is looting”.

Haque said that he had been appointed by then-PM Nawaz Sharif based on a summary forwarded by the petroleum ministry. The CJP asked if he knew then-petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi?

Haque responded by saying that he never met Abbasi before he became the petroleum minister.

Haque pointed out that during his tenure, PSO’s profitability had increased.

“Our total revenue is Rs1.2 trillion and net profit is Rs18.2 billion. We receive no budget from the government,” he said, adding that the company incurred administrative expenses of between Rs10 billion and Rs12 billion.

Still dissatisfied with Haque’s responses, the CJP asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe Haque’s appointment.

Haque’s three-year tenure will end in September this year.

He also ordered NAB to look into the appointments of all heads of public sector companies who were getting salaries of more than Rs1.5 million. NAB will submit its report in six weeks.

During the hearing, the chief justice also wondered about the status of the investigation into LNG contract awards.

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