NAB starts probe against Petroleum Ministry officials

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National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has initiated investigation against officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources allegedly involve in the award of Exploration and Production (E&P) licenses to various oil and gas companies.

Official sources at the ministry informed this scribe that NAB has launched investigation against the officials allegedly involved in the award of the licenses to some 16 oil and gas companies. Although the Directorate General of the Petroleum Concession (PC) had awarded the licenses to the companies for addressing energy shortage, however, these companies did not start the E&P activities after lapse of considerable time and caused around Rs 15 billion loss to national exchequer, they said.

“The NAB has started investigation on the compliant of Chaudhry Bilal Ahmed Virk, chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources,” the sources said. They also said that monitoring the E&P activities and fulfillment of contractual obligations by these firms was the responsibility of the Directorate General (PC) and justifying its slackness in its oversight responsibilities could not be considered as justification.

Available official documents said that the standing committee has directed for initiation of action against time barred and defaulted E&P companies and realisation of amount recoverable. Many other anomalies have also been identified, which undoubtedly establishes connivance of the Directorate General in the grant of exploration license, according to the document, available with the paper.

The documents further said that the standing committee in its complaint has also requested the NAB to find possible connivance of the Directorate General and other officers of the ministry in the grant of licenses. The sources said that NAB headquarter has directed the NAB Rawalpindi to investigate the matter on priority. They said that the E&P companies were bound to start drilling for oil and gas exploration in the areas concerned and submission of monthly progress report with the Directorate General as per conditions of license.

However, these 16 companies (E&P) did not start even drilling activities despite passing two years’ time, while the ministry remained in deep slumber during the said period. It is pertinent to mention here that so far the Directorate General, and the ministry have not taking any concrete action against the delay in the start of E&P activities by the companies despite passing considerable time to the grant of license.

Similarly, oil and gas production process could not take place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan provinces to meet the energy needs ostensibly due to the ignorance of the ministry’s officials. Besides, gas crisis has been intensifying with each passing day also because of the slackness and ignorant response of the officials of the ministry.