The oil scam investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Musharraf regime and Rs17 billion payment made by the government to refineries have become history as hundreds of files related to the scandal have gone missing from the petroleum ministry.
As many as 400 highly classified files have been stolen over a passage of six months from the ministry, according to sources.
Petroleum Secretary Ijaz Chaudhry, while confirming the theft, said that a departmental inquiry found that the files were being stolen by a night guard and a sweeper, which were sold to street vendors.
The case had been referred to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for further investigation.
“I am also going to initiate another inquiry today (Wednesday) at the petroleum ministry to find out other possible culprits,” said Chaudhry.
The two accused – the night guard and the sweeper – worked at the directorates of oil and gas and the administration department, the three offices from where the files were missing.
These employees were sacked recently after a two-member departmental committee confirmed their involvement. The inquiry also found that they sold these files to vendors for peanuts.
During Pervez Musharraf’s regime in 2006, NAB had initiated an inquiry into the oil price mechanism which was said to benefit oil marketing companies, dealers and retailers.
During the investigation, NAB authorities questioned a number of senior officials who held key positions in the petroleum ministry since 2002 to determine whether the deregulation of oil pricing was meant to benefit vested interests. The inquiry came to a halt due to some external pressure.
The government had introduced import parity pricing formula for refineries in 1992-93 with a minimum 10% guaranteed rate of return and maximum of 40%. Under this formula, the government allegedly paid Rs17 billion to the refineries.
The Auditor General of Pakistan had observed that the payment made to oil refineries was irregular and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was investigating the issue. However, the case is expected to come to a halt after the theft of files.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2011.
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