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January 24, 2021

PLL ex-CEO says has no role in his appointment ‘manipulation’

Lahore

January 24, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is apparently pushing ahead with a fresh inquiry against alleged illegal appointment of CEOs of public listed oil and gas companies in the country.

The new push in the said inquiry by NAB comes at a time when a superior court had observed that the anti-corruption watchdog was on “fishing expedition” to gather evidence against one of CEO of Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL).

More than two years passed since the NAB investigation team is struggling to gather conclusive and new evidence against CEOs/MDs of their alleged illegal appointments in Pakistan LNG Ltd, Pakistan State Oil, LNG Terminal Ltd and Inter State Gas System Ltd in violation of rules. The NAB slapped former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi a notice for his alleged involvement in manipulating the appointment of Adnan Gilani as Chief Executive Officer PLL in 2018, seeking his reply on this specific issue by Jan 10, 2020. The Islamabad High Court (IHC), while pursuing the record of Gilani’s appointment observed, “all aspects demonstrate that petitioner [Adnan Gilani] is victim of fishing expedition and as such w.e.f. Oct 02, 2020 nothing has been achieved in the pending inquiry by NAB [in CEOs appointment matter].”

“Perusal of record reveals that Gilani was appointed as CEO LNG Company Ltd, hereinafter called as PLL vide notification dated Feb 16, 2018 after an advertisement published by Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) under the law in a transparent manner. The very appointment of the petitioner was not declared illegal by any authority nor any illegality was highlighted in this case. Gilani’s name has been placed on Exit Control. Neither complaint has ever been scrutinised by the competent authority of the ministry of energy nor by the federal cabinet which is not the case in hand,” stated IHC’s order. The available record and background discussion, meetings Geo News had with officials familiar with this issue suggested that the anti-graft watchdog embarked on an open-ended fishing expedition to collect fresh actionable evidence against former Premier Abbasi and ex CEO PLL Adnan Gilani in the inquiry against appointments of favourites in the public limited companies and provision of billions of rupees in violation of relevant rules.

The NAB’s findings, this correspondent have had access to, claimed that Gilani being one of the favourites of ex PM Abbasi was appointed in PLL at the top post. Bureau’s findings claimed that the office of the then PM Nawaz Sharif during the appointment of Gilani in PLL in 2016 raised serious observations regarding his [Mr. Gilani’s] selection on March 14, 2016. Gilani’s application was rejected for the position. Gilani had no relevant experience for the post of CEO and his appointment was made at time of termination of Adam Sufi due to a claim of $30 million delay charges from PGPCL and suspension of standby letter of credit amounting to $20 million as such the role the petitioner is under inquiry for the said $50 million, NAB claimed.

The documents reveal that Gilani vehemently rebutted all allegations saying, “I applied for the position of CEO of PLL in response to an open, competitive, international advertisement published by the Ministry of Petroleum as per proper procedure. I absolutely had no role whatsoever in manipulating my appointment and had no affiliation with any decision-maker or competent authority outside of professional interactions. I initially was appointed the COO through a competitive process and later, on applying again and undergoing a rigorous and transparent process, was selected as CEO. Regarding the involvement with US Fintech Company, it was a malicious campaign against me. I cleared this issue with the Ministry through a letter dated July 1 wherein an external legal opinion was sought regarding conflict of interest, SECP regulations, SBP regulations, etc.” On his relationship with Abbasi, he replied to NAB, “I never met . Khaqan Abbasi before 2015-2016 when I was working at the Prime Minister’s Office. I had no relationship with him and have not met him since he left the PMO in 2018. I was working in the Prime Minister’s Office in the Delivery Unit as an MP-1 Team Leader from 2015 to 2016.”

On a specific issue raised by NAB on Oct 1, 2020, Mr. Gilani replied......my experience encompasses over 20 years of intense finance and energy related work. I have fulfilled all the requirements required for the CEO position in the guidelines like possession of masters degree, etc spelled out in the advertisement. The PLL is essentially a contract, financial management company set up to manage the entire supply chain through end-to-end contracts in the most efficient manner. It is not envisioned to primarily perform the work of an oil and gas production company, has no assets and is a highly productive high tech company.”

The appointment under inquiry shows that of Gilani, a professional with over two decades of global finance and energy experience, almost a decade of which is specifically in energy-related and energy investment, finance. He worked with international firms like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup after attending The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago decades back.

On NAB’s claim that why the PM did not demand fresh panel for under questioned post after the Establishment Division highlighted issues with nominated panel to the PM Office, the official record suggested that “neither it was alleged that the very appointment was questioned by any authority nor any illegality was highlighted in this case.” Gilani, as the official record showed, set up Pakistan LNG as a professional organization to secure low prices for LNG. The tendering processes and procedures were set up to prevent supply shortages and exorbitant prices, according to record.

On Sep 18, 2020, the Sindh High Court, in ex MD PSO Imran-ul-Haq’s appointment case, observed that the PSO did not incur losses and in fact in certain areas became more profitable during the tenure of its MD Imran-ul-Haq. .....from the fact and circumstances of the case and in this case the court made such an inference of malafide by the NAB against the petitioners and co-accused in NAB case, observed the SHC.

In his response, a spokesperson for NAB said, “since the inquiry is ongoing. We [the NAB is] are in the process to have a point of view/statement of all concerned in this regard. Therefore, sharing any information at this stage may affect the official proceedings of NAB as per law [in this CEOs appointments case].”

It is also pertinent to mention here that NAB chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal gave go ahead for an inquiry against alleged illegal appointments of CEOs in public limited companies in 2018. Later on in July last year, NAB filed a reference and a supplementary reference against Mr. Abbasi, his son Abdullah Abbasi, ex CEO of EETPL and MD of PSO Miftah Ismail, ex-chairman PQA Agha Jan Akhtar, ex-chairman OGRA Saeed Khan, ex-chairperson of OGRA Uzma Adil Khan, ex-MD PSO Shahid Islam, ex MD PSO Imran-ul-Haq and others.