Govt ‘Cherry Picking’ Results of Fuel Crisis Inquiry

The government is reluctant to fully implement recommendations of an inquiry committee, headed by a special assistant to the prime minister, into the petroleum crisis that paralysed several parts of the country in January. 

Sources told Dawn that the committee, led by Barrister Zafarullah Khan, had held Pakistan State Oil’s (PSO) management board responsible for failing to perform its functions under Section 7 of the Marketing of Petroleum Products (Fede­ral Control) Act of 1974.

Govt ‘cherry

The inquiry report, seen by Dawn, recommended that under the act, the government “immediately de-notify the existing board and appoint a new board on professional lines and the existing members of the board may be blacklisted for other such assignments in future”. The recommendation was partially implemented, according to the wishes of an influential lobby within the government, an official close to the inquiry committee told Dawn. He said that while the board was immediately de-notified early last month,

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One of its members – who also headed the crucial ‘audit and finance committee’ – was made acting managing director for three months, instead of being blacklisted for such future assignments, as called for by the inquiry report. Unlike normal listed companies with a board of directors, the PSO is guided by a management board responsible for greater management issues. The board’s audit and finance committee is normally required to guide the company on financial arrangements for imports. Secondly, other members of the board were removed from their assignments but not blacklisted. It is ironic that the country’s largest company in terms of revenue is currently being run without a board of management. In the first week of February, the prime minister had ordered the appointment of a fulltime managing director before April 30, also on the recommendations of the committee. 

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As of March 9, the government had not yet issued an advertisement seeking applications for the post. A tailor-made advertisement is said to be in the making for the post of PSO chief. The report required the Establishment Division to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the secretary, additional secretary and director general (oil) of the petroleum ministry for ‘misconduct’. A service law expert was to be engaged at the outset to ensure that inquiry proceedings were initiated with due care and caution.