Sources aware of the matter informed TheNation that Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources (MPNR) has drafted a summary seeking federal cabinet’s approval to certain amendments in regulator’s ordinance to take control of regulatory authority (Ogra).
Failing to get Ogra’s nod over projects of import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) coupled with its stiff opposition to collect hefty Rs 9 billion from the gas consumers paying bills on regular basis, Petroleum Ministry has resolved to end the sovereignty of the regulatory authority by introducing certain amendments in Ogra Ordinance.
The sources said in a bid to bring regulator under its administrative control, the ministry is seeking cabinet’s approval to introduce certain amendments in the OGRA Ordinance. They said after cabinet’s approval, the Ogra, entrusted with the task to protect rights of consumers, would be bound to accept orders of the ministry in letter and spirit and would not be able to reject them at any cost.
And, appointments and removal of chairman and members of Ogra would be mandate of Petroleum Ministry with certain amendments in the ordinance. Again, in case of absence of any Ogra member, the ministry would be authorised to appoint someone on the responsible slot.
Putting Ogra, which is mandated with task to monitor the affairs of petroleum and natural resources, under the umbrella of petroleum ministry is also against the rights of consumers and international practices and there is a fear that international donors can raise voices against this move, which as a result would ultimately make the regulator toothless in protecting the rights of consumers, sources added.
At present, all the regulatory bodies such as National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Ogra, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Indus River System Authority (IRSA) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) are working under Cabinet Division. Proposed control of Ogra is tantamount to further increasing government influence in the regulatory regime, which is contrary to the international practices.
A cabinet member, when contacted to give his stance on the proposed draft of ministry’s summary to be tabled in today’s Cabinet meeting for its consent pertaining clipping the powers of Ogra, on the condition of anonymity said that it was not the right time to consider such proposals as the next general election was approaching fast.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has already advised the regulatory authority to refuse to entertain those instructions/orders, which are against the rights of consumers. Moving with such ambitious and half-baked proposals at this point of time would invite a lot of criticism from the opposition. This kind of naive initiative could also lead to some kind of schism within the federal cabinet, the member maintained.
Energy experts were of the view that Ogra should continue functioning under Cabinet Division, which was in the supreme interests of the oil and gas consumers and also inline with international practices.