With shortage of major petroleum products aggravating with none of more than 80 oil companies maintaining the mandatory stocks, the authorities — both in the petroleum division and petroleum regulator appeared taking notice of the situation as complaints started to reach the prime minister’s desk.
The Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has issued show-cause notices to 6 of the leading oil companies for violating petroleum rules that required at least 20 days of sales cover. Oil industry sources said that certain import orders were missed by Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in May and some others were rearranged by authorities over the past few weeks as shortages built up.
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Industry experts say it could take 10 to 15 days for the supply chain to return to normal as import orders are lined up and dispatches from local refineries reach all parts of the country. Dry outs were reported in many areas of Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan while some difficulties were also reported in Sindh. According to OGRA spokesman Imran Ghaznavi:
“OGRA has issued show-cause notices to three OMCs – Shell Pakistan, Attock Petroleum and Total Parco Pakistan where major dry-outs have been reported.”
He said that replies had been sought within 24 hours adding that OGRA had also responded to citizen complaints on Prime Minister’s Citizen Portal on fuel shortage at retail outlets and three more show-cause notices had been issued to OMCs namely Gas and Oil, Puma and Hascol.
According to information, Prime Minister Imran Khan had also taken serious notice of the petroleum shortages and expressed displeasure over the role of authorities concerned for the fact that the benefit of reduction in petroleum prices announced by the government had not reached the consumers and rather led to their difficulties.
Industry experts said shortage situation was building overtime as evident from minutes of the regular product review meetings and daily availability of product sales and stocks position to all but petroleum division and OGRA were found wanting in taking action against delinquent OMCs owing to conflict of interest. They said the government should immediately purge its ranks of officials having relatives working in oil companies.
Meanwhile petroleum retailers have demanded that the government conduct a comprehensive probe into the nationwide fuel shortage and have urged authorities to fix responsibility. All Pakistan Petroleum Retailers Association noted that all oil companies, except for Pakistan State Oil (PSO), delayed the import of petroleum products and violated rules of maintaining fuel stock, which resulted in scarcity of petrol across the country. All Pakistan CNG Association Central Chairman Ghiyas Paracha said an unnecessary delay in the import of petroleum products caused a colossal revenue loss worth billions of rupees to the government while consumers were deprived of the benefit of reduced prices. He said:
“At present, oil marketing companies have halted supplies to petrol pumps while some filling stations are receiving reduced supplies, which are insufficient to satisfy the demand from consumers.”
Paracha added that the shortage of petroleum products could hurt the transport sector and lead to a hike in fares of public transport. He stressed that petroleum products should be imported immediately and companies should be forced to abide by rules and regulations. Petroleum dealers had already suffered a lot during the lockdown and now fuel scarcity was denting their business, he remarked. Paracha demanded that:
“Issues of owners of filling stations should be addressed and a new pricing formula for refineries, oil marketing companies and dealers should be introduced. The oil and gas sector needs a new pricing formula according to the changed local and global situation amid pandemic as the old formula is no longer viable.”