SNGPL probes alleged favours given by director

Board chairperson says Aqeel is facing corruption allegations; forensic audit will be conducted


Zafar Bhutta May 29, 2021
SNGPL’s financial health, which had remained feeble for the past few years, has now improved with positive figures emerging in the very first year of revamp. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) board of directors' audit committee have started probing alleged favours given by a board director to the factories and holdings of Nishat Group. Private sector director Ahmed Aqeel is also facing the same allegations in the National Investment Trust (NIT) case. He has been on SNGPL board for the past 10 years.

Earlier, the SNGPL board sent the case to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) for taking appropriate action. However, the SECP asked the board to probe the matter on its own and submit a report to it. Sources revealed that the crisis started in June last year, which still continues. The SNGPL board also tasked an external auditor with auditing its record for taking appropriate action against the director. However, the external auditor apologised, citing that Nishat Group companies were its clients.

Now, the SNGPL board plans to initiate a forensic audit, which will take time. In the meantime, the board's audit committee and FIA are investigating the issue. Sources said that Aqeel was a nominee of the Nishat Group on the SNGPL board, NIT and three other companies. The issue was also brought to the notice of the Petroleum Division. According to sources, the highups in the Ministry of Petroleum took up the matter with the Nishat Group owner, asking him to replace its nominee on the SNGPL board as corruption allegations had surfaced against him.

However, the Nishat Group did not take any action. In a questionnaire sent to the SNGPL company secretary, the FIA has sought information about the procedure for selection of private sector directors according to the Companies Act. It has asked about the main sponsor (proxy provider) of Aqeel and his total duration as the director on SNGPL board. The FIA has sought record of all complaints against Aqeel about preferential treatment, undue advantage for his private business and coercing employees into giving preferential treatment to his private sponsors.

It is also searching for record, if any, pertaining to favours given to factories/ holdings of the Nishat Group in the form of gas theft, providing regasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) at cheaper prices, thus, intentionally placing "undersized meters" to reduce gas bills, enhancing gas load beyond permissible limits, giving gas connections during moratorium, arranging a special relief in their billing, avoiding inspection of Nishat Group mills and avoiding "super compressibility" factor for Nishat Group mills.

The FIA has asked the company secretary to provide record, if any, of pressurising the senior management to stop investigation into the Nishat Group and also of removal of staff taking action against the Nishat Group and gas theft by DG Khan Cement, Nishat Chunian, Nishat Mills, Nishat Linen, Lalpir Power, Nishat Automobile and Nishat Power. It has asked for record of favours given to Aqeel and the Nishat Group during the tenure of GM (Billing) Faisal Iqbal. Aqeel is also alleged to have received uninterrupted gas supply for his compressed natural gas (CNG) stations when filling stations were closed on the directive of the federal government.

The FIA is searching for record of enhanced gas load at Aqeel's CNG stations as compared to other CNG outlets, undersized meters, no routine examination and more compressors than the permitted capacity. He is also alleged to have forced the management to carry out gas theft inspection of competitors to reduce competition. The company has been asked to provide record of Aqeel's brother-inlaw and other family members having CNG stations and factories, and whether these disclosures had been made according to related party transactions.

It is seeking record of Nishat Group's bills and certification from the billing department that the group never received any revision or preferential treatment in its bills. The FIA has asked for a forensic audit report of the case as and when available. When contacted, the SNGPL board chairperson confirmed that the FIA and audit committee were probing the matter. She said that Aqeel was facing allegations of corruption and a forensic audit would be conducted in this regard. She also acknowledged that the issue had been brought to the notice of SECP.

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