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April 4, 2020

Non essential assignments amid pandemic: Petroleum Division may put ageing, ailing officials in danger

National

April 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Despite the clear directions of the government that there should be focus on issues of essential and immediate nature only, the Petroleum Division has started working vigorously on those issues that are important but not that essential knowing the fact that most of staff are at home due to lockdown, senior officials of the Ministry of Energy told The News.

The officials said, “The working on the said issues needs the presence of officials of over 50 years of age and those who are facing illnesses such as, flu, fever and other sickness at refineries, oil marketing companies and gas companies. Their lives may be in danger as they are more vulnerable to COVID-19." They said it was decided by the government that the most important and essential issues would be dealt with in priority by the ministries and government departments as long as the pandemic existed.

The officials said “The Petroleum Division should focus on provision and maintaining energy supply chain during the lockdown and should not work on those issues which are not crucial, like introduction of weighted average cost of gas (WACOG), expansion of pipelines, minimum efficiency of benchmark of captive power plants, and gas storages.”

The Petroleum Division has started working on almost 27 projects, including Machike-Taru Jabba White Oil Pipeline, upgradation of refineries, and allowing new private LNG terminals with no government liability. The said projects are in discussion since long, and it was asked to finalise their summaries within 15 days. The officials said working on summaries to be completed within 15 days was not possible, creating COVID-19 outbreak possible among the ministry officials.

Interestingly, among the 27 projects, there is no direction on E&P sector which is the backbone of the nation’s economy and could help achieve self sufficiency in oil and gas sector at affordable rates.

However, the spokesman of the Petroleum Division when contacted said the division has implemented the directives of the interior ministry, in letter and spirit and only 33 percent were attending the office and 66 per cent were working from home, but they are bound to be in contact with their top bosses during the official timing.

The country is facing an extraordinary situation on account of COVID-19. He added, however, they are not on leave but supposed to do their assignments accordingly.

When his attention was drawn towards the initiation of work on some assignments not that essential and of immediate nature, he responded, “Yes, Petroleum Division is well focused on ensuring and maintaining the energy supply chain but other issues are also very important.”

He said the senior officials and other technical staff who are at home and not supposed to come to office, rather they should give their inputs from home and more importantly if there was a need of any consultation with minister, special assistant to PM on petroleum or secretary, they had the facility to consult through video call and WhatsApp facilities.