The Petroleum Division is close to appointing heads of key state-owned energy companies in an effort to improve the performance of these units as it has drawn flak for delaying the hiring for several months.

The division has thus far failed to appoint managing directors/ chief executive officers of major energy companies, which include Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL), which deal in projects of millions of dollars.

Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) – a large hydrocarbon explorer – is also being run through an ad hoc arrangement after the resignation of its managing director.

The Petroleum Division assured the cabinet, in its last meeting, that it would be able to appoint heads of four energy firms in the next one to three months.

In a briefing, the petroleum secretary spoke about vacant positions in the oil and gas companies working under the Petroleum Division.

The post of MD/ CEO of Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) – a large oil and gas explorer – has been vacant since March 15, 2018. Since then, the company is being run through an ad hoc arrangement.

The Petroleum Division official told the cabinet that a panel of three candidates for the post had been sent to the Establishment Division for further processing on November 19, 2021 and the process was likely to be completed within one month.

The division has put Imran Abbasi on top of the merit list. According to sources, he has worked in a company in the United States.

During the tenure of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, he had been appointed the OGDCL head. However, he did not join the company over the pay package, the sources said.

In OGDCL, the post of MD/ CEO has been vacant since October 20, 2021 after managing director Shahid Saleem stepped down. The government gave an advertisement on November 29, 2021, seeking applications for the appointment of new head of the country’s largest state-owned company.

Earlier, the board of directors of the company had approved a package to rationalise expenses to save Rs175 billion over the next 10 years.

Pakistan Mineral Development Company is also working under the Petroleum Division to develop the country’s mining sector. Its top post has been vacant for about a year.

The Petroleum Division official told the cabinet that the delay in appointing the MD/ CEO had been due to the conflict of interest. However, a panel of three candidates had been sent to the Establishment Division for further processing on November 29, 2021, he said.

In the case of PLL, the seat of MD/ CEO has been vacant since August 23, 2019.

The previous PML-N government had set up PLL to deal with liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports of millions of dollars. However, the company has been embroiled in controversies, which include alleged poor management of LNG contracts.

Consumers have paid $99 million in capacity payments as authorities failed to utilise the idle capacity of an LNG terminal.

Though the government had decided in July 2020 to allocate the idle capacity to the private sector, the plan could not be implemented.

PLL board of directors has finalised three candidates and will send a summary to the prime minister through the Establishment Division. The process was expected to be completed within one month, the cabinet was told in the meeting.

The Petroleum Division official revealed that delay in the merger of Pakistan LNG Terminals Limited (PLTL) and PLL had hindered the hiring process. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan had notified the merger in March 2021.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2021.

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