PM directs Special Aide to resign over fuel crisis

  1. | Asad Umar says FIA mandated to carry out forensic audit into June 2020 petroleum shortage | Secretary Petroleum will report to Establishment Division | Those found involved will be handcuffed and sent to jail

ISLAMABAD   –  Prime Minister Imran has directed his special assistant on petroleum Nadeem Babar to step down as the government has decided to carry out the forensic audit of the June 2020 petrol crises.

“Secretary for Petroleum Division Mian Asad Hayauddin will also be asked to report to the Establishment Division as soon his replacement is finalised,” this was announced by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar during a addressing a press conference here on Friday. While briefing about the recommendations submitted by the Ministerial Committee formed to probe the June fuel crisis, Asad Umar said the recommendations of the committee were forwarded to the prime minister and he had for some additional information. When the additional information came to the fore the Prime Minister given the go ahead to share the  recommendations, the minister added.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted a four-member ministerial committee, headed by Federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and comprised of federal ministers Shafqat Mehmood, Azam Swati and Shireen Mazari with the mandate to fix the responsible for petrol crisis in the light of a report of the five-member inquiry commission, headed by Abubakar Khuda Baksh, additional 

director general FIA.

Flanked by the Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood and Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, Asad Umar said that both the SAPM and Secretary Petroleum had not been found guilty of any involvement in the crises and claimed that the decision has been taken to ensure transparency in the probe.

The Planning Minister said that Prime minister wanted the entire chain involved in the crises be investigated and this decision was made so that no doubt remains of any one person’s possible involvement.

He said that the recommendations were divided into three parts the first are those actions which are criminal acts and under the law criminal cases should be registered against those involved. He said that the evidence to be formulated in a way that charges can be brought. “FIA is being asked to do a forensic audit and submit its report within 90 days so prosecution efforts can begin,” the planning minister said.

The FIA has been tasked to investigate;  was the legal requirement for a minimum inventory fulfilled by the OMCs? Discrepancies in sale will also be investigated, were the sales figures reported actual numbers or they are just reported on papers or actual? Who reported these? Was the product hoarded?If so, then who was responsible?

These are all those things which are noted in the report are prima facie, it was determined that these did occur. So I am just saying that the evidence has to be given such a shape that it is prosecutable in court,” explained Umar.

Counting the deficiencies in the system, he said that there was legal violations, for example undue advantage taken of a temporary marketing licences, illegal hospitality agreements for where the product will be kept, and the product’s sales at illegal outlets.

The minister also spoke of a key allegation in the report regarding delayed berthing of an oil ship so that when new rates are notified, the product can be sold at a higher rate. Asad Umar said that a forensic investigation and pinpointing in this also needs to be done to ascertain who was responsible. He said illegal sales will also be covered in the forensic audit.

He further said that although oil retail companies and fuel stations will be probed in the forensic audit, it must also investigate which government officials facilitated such criminal acts. The Petroleum Division Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Port Authority will be investigated for all the illegal acts. The minister made it clear that action will not only be limited to fines but those involved will be handcuffed and sent to jail.

The second part of the recommendation pertains to administrative action some people sitting in administrative roles were said to not be skilled enough to sit in these positions, the planning minister said. The Petroleum Division has been asked to look into this and report to the prime minister as soon as possible, the minister added.

The third part related to revisiting the existing Law currently managing the petroleum sector. He said that the system under which the petrol sector operates has two key players: the Petroleum Division and “OGRA would say so and so is Petroleum Division’s responsibility and the Petroleum Division would say the same for OGRA, each citing different clauses of the law,” Umar said. A new law will be made to remove the ambiguity, the minister added. He said what responsibility was of the OGRA and what the responsibility was of the Petroleum Division. He said whenever issues were brought up before the cabinet committee, the lack of clarity of the roles of the two players in the sector, was always a matter of debate.

He said the law was also found to be very weak in punitive actions. “So the law will be revisited and the punishments will be made proportionate to the crime committed.” The overall improvement in Petroleum Division is also included in the report and will be sent to them for them to make an action plan. The plan will be shared with the Cabinet Committee on Energy and then with the Cabinet for approval.

The minister said that “now the time has come for punishments” and the prime minister has made absolutely clear that this “mafia” and others that have operating for decades under the “leadership of past rulers”, “will not be spared”.

Replying to a query that why Minister for Petroleum Division has not been asked to resign, Asad Umar said that his role is at policy role and not directly involved in operational matters therefore he was not included.

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