ISLAMABAD: The next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) is likely to take up the matter of implementation status on the report of the inquiry commission to probe into the shortage of petroleum products that hit the country in June 2020.
On April 1 this year, the federal cabinet considered the recommendations of the committee under the chairmanship of the minister for planning, development, and special initiatives in light of the findings of the report, and directed that timelines for policy, administrative and legal changes be worked out and presented for approval of the cabinet by the Petroleum Division. The cabinet also directed that the reports of the two inquiry commissions be made public.
According to sources, the Petroleum Division has so far taken various actions on the matter. Some of the policy, legal and administrative actions have been completed while the remaining will take some time.
However, the Petroleum Division is expected to outline the implementation status of each recommendation and future timelines for the task related to the division during the next meeting. Furthermore, the minister in charge of the division has seen and authorised the submission of a summary in this regard, said sources.
As per details, the cabinet, in its meeting held on ]December 15, 2020, constituted a committee comprising the planning minister, minister for education, minister for human rights, railways minister, and adviser to prime minister on accountability to make recommendations on the administrative and policy actions that were needed to be taken in the light of the findings of the report. The committee, after having carried out a detailed review of the findings and recommendations, had given certain recommendations.
The committee recommended that following matters may be referred for forensic investigation to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to unearth evidence/proof of criminal act/intent, with the direction to submit its report within 90 days: failure to maintain minimum 20-days stocks as per the license requirement of Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) over a prolonged period; failure to ensure lifting of products by the OMCs from local refineries as per PRM decisions of February, March and April 2020; failure to ensure implementation of PRM decisions regarding imports; and apparent maneuvering of berthing plan of vessels.
The committee also recommended investigation in respect of fake sales, hoarding and discrepancies between the reported and actual supplies to retail outlets by OMCs, illegalities regarding provisional marketing licenses to OMCs, unlawful joint ventures (JVs) and hospitalities, illegal private storage, and illegal retail outlets, and inquiry of companies involved in adulteration of petroleum products, etc.
The committee also recommended certain legislative and policy changes to fix the gaps in the law, the regulations, and policies including review of OGRA Ordinance 2002 to remove ambiguity regarding the roles and responsibilities of the Petroleum Division and regulator, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), and the task may be assigned to law, petroleum and cabinet divisions.
Similarly, redefining punitive measures to make them more stringent against illegalities, irregularities by the OMCs like figure fudging to show fake supplies, establishing illegal petrol pumps, sale of smuggled and adulterated products, was recommended while it was also recommended that OGRA should take lead in this regard. Furthermore, the construction of strategic storage of refined products and crude oil was recommended besides recommending the up-gradation of outdated refineries with modern technology to reduce cost, increase efficiency and provision of environment-friendly products to the people of Pakistan.
The committee, under convenership of the planning minister, further recommended certain administrative actions by the Petroleum Division, the Maritime Affairs Division and OGRA to address the shortcomings in the present system.
The committee recommended removal/transfer of officers of directorate general of oil, removal/transfer of relevant officers of port authority who were involved in alleged delay in the berthing of ships, and appointment of professional officers on technical positions such as DG oil, through objective criteria.
It was also recommended to create a monitoring cell in the Petroleum Division for reliable data collection, analysis and decision making to do away with reliance on Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) and establishment of new testing labs, able to test all petroleum products and mandatory testing of imported petroleum products.