–Cabinet Division asked to revoke OGRA chairperson’s access to official record in order to ensure fair trial
ISLAMABAD: Former employees of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) have asked the Cabinet Division to protect the sanctity of trial in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) scandal by revoking the access of the authority’s chairperson and other accused to official records.
On December 26, 2019, the authority decided to grant its chairperson and other accused access to official records pertaining to the LNG scandal and allowed them to hire the services of a lawyer of their choice to deal with the inquiries of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). On January 14, two former employees wrote a letter to the Cabinet Division, requesting that these privileges should be revoked to ensure that the sanctity of the trial remains intact.
“The Cabinet Division secretary is requested to take up the matter with the NAB authority to ensure the sanctity of the trial and level playing field for all other accused who are not working in OGRA,” the letter stated.
The former employees also highlighted that back in 2012, in the case of Mansoor Muzaffar Ali, the anti-graft watchdog, with the consent of the Cabinet Division, rendered their services dysfunctional while they were being investigated in a scam related to the fixing gas loss ratio at 5 per cent for two gas utilities (Sui Northern Gas Pipelines and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited) so that they could not influence the witnesses and have access to the relevant records.
Similarly, the letter stated, in the case of Mir Kamal Marri, NAB, through a letter dated October 10, 2013, advised the Cabinet Division that “NAB does not recommend the posting of Mir Kamal Marri, as OGRA member finance, as he is facing trial in the OGRA scam and his posting will adversely affect the proceedings”.
“Believing in the reign of reason, equity and fair play, the administrative fiat of the Cabinet Division is hereby approached to mete out the same penal treatment to the current chairperson as was administered to us by the then government in the above terms,” the letter added.
Earlier, on January 9, the former employees asked the OGRA chief to review the December 26, 2019, decision under Section 13 of the OGRA Ordinance, 2002, within seven working days and the failure to do so would prompt them to approach the court of competent jurisdiction for seeking redressal of grievances in a lawful manner.
It is pertinent to mention here that on December 12, 2019, NAB had filed an interim reference in an accountability court for the trial of OGRA Chairperson Uzma Adil, an accused in a scam regarding the awarding of LNG terminal contract to a private company. Later, in a letter written to the Cabinet Division secretary on December 19, 2019, Uzma had requested that she be allowed to officially hire the counsel to defend the charges against her.
Subsequently, the regulatory authority, in its administrative meeting held on December 26, unanimously decided to provide full legal support in case of any litigation, criminal investigation, and prosecution instituted against its serving or retired employees.
“The accused person(s) shall be at liberty to utilise the services of any competent lawyer of choice to defend their respective cases, the cost of which shall be paid/refunded by OGRA provided that such cost does not exceed a total of Rs2 million for each case at each forum until final conclusion thereof,” it decided.
The authority, however, stated that the accused persons, who were entitled to this facility, were expected to be judicious in negotiating the fee with the counsel of their choice keeping in view the nature and complexity of the case and the level of the forum. Similarly, the authority also decided to provide the accused (OGRA employees) access to the official records in case any agency or institution started proceedings against them.