NA panel expels OGDC team from meeting
ISLAMABAD: Annoyed by the OGDCL management’s refusal to share with it inquiry reports on embezzlement of about Rs200 million and their outcomes, a parliamentary committee expelled on Wednesday the entire team of the company, led by its acting managing director Basharat Mirza, from the committee room.
The members of the National Assembly’s sanding committee on petroleum and natural resources, including senior parliamentarians from the ruling Pakistan Peoples’ Party, got angry when they were simply told by the management that the reports were ‘confidential’.
The committee headed by PML-Q’s Sardar Talib Hussain Nakai was looking into allegations of corruption and irregularities in Oil and Gas Development Company Limited, the country’s largest oil and gas producer. The meeting was held at the ground floor of the 20-storey building of OGDCL, near the parliament building.
But that was not the end of the high drama. Members of the committee unanimously condemned the Tuesday night’s decision by the government to increase the prices of petroleum products and termed it “worst kind of terrorism”. They demanded its immediate withdrawal to provide relief to consumers.
They also called for removal of the OGDCL management for their “arrogant attitude” towards parliament. They asked the petroleum minister to resign over his disclosure about the oil price hike five days earlier “to benefit hoarders to make millions of rupees at the cost of poor people” or else the prime minister should sack him immediately.
The committee members said they would raise the issue of oil price hike in parliament and also press the prime minister to withdraw the decision because it would have far reaching consequences.
PPP’s Jamshed Dasti said the increase was “an open act of terrorism committed in the darkness of night” and alleged that “criminal minded officers have been appointed to lead state institutions”.
And as bizarre the non-cooperation of OGDCL was, equally remarkable stance came from the petroleum ministry whose representative, additional secretary Naeem Malik, said the ministry would hold a thorough investigation into the ‘mishap’ and an odd example of defiance by a state-run company directly working under the ministry. He told reporters that the reaction by the standing committee was justified after an unusual show of defiance by the OGDCL team which he himself was leading until a few months ago.
No wonder then, the committee asked the government to remove all those unwilling to answer its members’ questions relating cases of embezzlement.
Some members of the committee threatened to boycott or walk out of the proceedings in protest against OGDCL’s defiance, but PPP’s Nawab Yousaf Talpur said it was their privilege as parliamentarians to show the door to the management which was subservient to parliament.
The committee ordered the host management to leave the room and called an impromptu news conference.
Sardar Nakai told reporters that OGDCL was not ready to discuss a two-point agenda of the meeting and the committee’s secretary had forewarned about OGDCL’s resistance to take up issues related to corruption and irregularities.
The members said they might consider en block resignations from the committee.
The two-point agenda set early last month included discussions on seven inquiry reports — unnecessary purchase of chemicals worth Rs55 million, Rs10 million losses because of negligence on part of the state-run Enar Petrotech in the execution of Kunnar LPG project, irregular hiring of consultants, Rs65 million losses in the appointment of 22 unauthorised officers, purchase of defective portable drill worth Rs50 million and others.
The tone of the proceedings was set by OGDCL chief Basharat Mirza who said the inquiry reports were confidential and could not be shared with members of the parliamentary committee, although he was ready to share some brief findings.