Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has turned down a proposal that called for removing Mir Kamal Marri, member finance of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) who was named in a multi-billion-rupee scam, and has directed that the case be referred to the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC).
The premier’s directive came in response to a summary sent by the Cabinet Division to the Establishment Division, seeking the go-ahead for removing Marri over charges of misconduct, sources say. Later, the Establishment Division forwarded the summary to the prime minister.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had named Marri with some other officials in the Rs82 billion Ogra scam. In a fresh reference before the Accountability Court, NAB surprisingly reduced the amount involved in the scandal to Rs26 billion, which put a question mark over impartiality of investigations.
Marri had remained absent from the office for six and a half months and had gone to Switzerland during the probe.
“The prime minister, however, refused to sign the summary to terminate services of Ogra’s member finance after coming to know that the FPSC had recommended that the member be ‘censured’ instead of throwing him out of office,” a source said.
According to government officials, earlier the Cabinet Division had referred the case of member finance to the FPSC for initiating an inquiry into his absence from work from August 18, 2012 to February 28, 2013.
After undertaking the inquiry, the FPSC suggested that the member be ‘censured’ for absence from duty without approval of the Cabinet Division, officials said, adding the Establishment Division then sent the summary to the prime minister for his removal, but it was rejected.
Now, the prime minister has asked the Cabinet Division to refer the case again to the FPSC for its views.
In its summary, the Cabinet Division also pointed out that NAB had initiated investigations into the conduct of Tauqir Sadiq, former chairman of Ogra, and others on the orders of the Supreme Court. NAB also filed references against Sadiq, Marri and others. The case is still pending.
Marri had been part of an Ogra bench, which increased the unaccounted-for-gas (UFG) ceiling from 5% to 7% to bail out gas distributing companies in 2010. NAB has descried the move as illegal, putting the government under pressure.
Now, the government feels compelled either to recover Rs49 billion, collected after the increase in UFG, from the utilities, which could result in their bankruptcy, or shift the burden on to consumers.
In the case, NAB told different stories as it filed two investigation reports, which were challenged in court. In the first report, which took two and a half years, there was no allegation on a big brokerage house. However, in the second report which took only a few days, its name was included while some big names were removed.
This came despite the fact that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan had ruled out in May 2013 any insider trading by stockbrokers in shares of gas companies and a report in this regard had been presented to the policy board.
The prime minister’s press secretary was contacted for his comments on the development, but he did not respond.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2014.
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