ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) for the first time admitted on Monday before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum that it had issued 20 new marketing licenses for CNG stations on the directives of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.
Secretary Petroleum Ejaz Chaudhary explained to the NA meeting that the government had imposed a one-year moratorium on new gas connections in April last year, but following immense pressure from the industry and court orders, policy directives were issued in October for the granting of new CNG connections for commercial, industrial and residential projects.
In response to a question from Hanif Abbasi about exactly how many new licenses for CNG stations had been issued on the prime minister’s directives, Executive Director Gas Ogra Mohammad Yasin replied that the number stood at approximately 20.
The petroleum secretary, meanwhile, strongly denied that the PM had issued any directives and said that new licences were issued under new policy guidelines from thepetroleum ministry to Ogra. Members severely criticised the government for its lack of seriousness in tackling the issue. The petroleum secretary said that the moratorium was for a six-month period, and that new policy guidelines had been issued after this period, following which Ogra representatives had changed their stance, and said the Executive Director Gas was not the appropriate person to submit replies on CNG-related issues.
Nawab Ali Wassan of the PPP said that, had the committee taken a timely decision on the issue of the 462 illegal CNG station licenses, such a situation would not have arisen. Chairman Nakai explained that the enquiry had been delayed as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had taken over the Ogra office. He assured the members that a full enquiry would be completed at the earliest opportunity, since NAB authorities had now left the Ogra office.
Abdul Waseem, MQM, said that the committee was faced with a difficult task since the petroleum secretary himself was admitting that he was helpless in controlling the situation, and demanded that the committee immediately identify influential persons sabotaging important policy-making decisions.
The committee also decided to discuss the issue of load shedding on February 28, and decided that a joint meeting would be held with the chairmen of the standing committees on textiles, water and power.
Earlier, while briefing the committee, the petroleum secretary revealed that the failure to develop hydel and coal sectors in the country had led to an irrational energy mix that was overtly dependent on the most affordable fuel gas. He said that during the last few years, gas production had increased by 7 percent while its consumption had increased by 40 percent per annum. He also identified the CNG sector as the major user of gas whose consumption has increased by 39 percent per annum over the past few years.