Gas management: OGRA grilled over CNG relocation

Parliamentary panel demands details of all renewed licenses.

Zafar Bhutta July 30, 2011


A parliamentary panel on Friday grilled officials from the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority over allegations that some officials took bribes to grant relocation permission to compressed natural gas stations in the country.

Testifying before the petroleum and natural resources committee of the National Assembly, the acting chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), Mansoor Muzaffar Ali tried to justify the relocation of CNG stations, at which the committee chairman, Sardar Talib Hassan Nakai of the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q), expressed serious concerns.

Some members of the committee accused Ogra officials of taking between Rs4 million and Rs5 million in bribes for every CNG station relocation they authorised.

Owing to the chronic shortage of natural gas in the country, the government imposed a ban on new licences for CNG stations in February 2008. The ban also extends to extending licences that had been granted provisionally. The acting Ogra chairman said that no new CNG licences were being considered.

However, Haneef Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) claimed that 37 licences had been extended. The committee demanded a record of all renewed licences to be presented at the next hearing on the matter, scheduled for August 18.

The committee also demanded to see a complete record of all CNG stations whose relocations had been approved by the regulator.

In addition, the committee ordered former Ogra Chairman Tauqeer Sadiq to testify at the next hearing. Sadiq is currently on forced leave after facing embezzlement charges.

Several members of the panel also expressed their reservations over what they claim was Ogra’s practice of providing a year-round supply of gas to entities that had only entered into nine-month gas supply agreements with the government. The committee asked Ogra to provide them with details of the gas being supplied to any entity in this manner.

The chief lobbyist for the CNG sector, Ghiyas Paracha, also testified before the committee, claiming that the energy crisis in Punjab would be reduced if his sector was supplied more gas. He offered no evidence to back up his claims.

Paracha, the chairman of the Supreme Council of the All Pakistan CNG Association, said that the government should prioritise those sectors for gas rations that had no alternative to gas, such as the CNG sector and fertiliser manufacturers.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th,  2011.


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