ISLAMABAD – Officials at the Petroleum Ministry have once again planned a road show in the United States (US) ostensibly in a bid to encourage foreign investors in energy sector of Pakistan. The past experience, however, suggests that the road show could be a futile exercise and will bear no fruit in meeting the objectives ahead of Christmas holidays in Houston. But the long list of officials having flown out of country will at least enjoy a pleasures trip from tax payers’ money.

The road show scheduled for December 10 and 11, in Houston is similar to the show held in 2009 that officials says failed to persuade foreign firms despite spending tax payers’ money by the petroleum ministry. Now, LMKR (a custodian of country’s exploration and production data) has been assigned the task to lure US businessmen to participate in the road show ahead of Christmas holidays.  Top guns of some state-owned oil and gas exploration, production and distribution companies are to attend this show have gone to Houston in the wee hours of Saturday from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad airports despite serious concerns raised by Pakistan’s Consular General in Houston Muhammad Aqil Nadeem in a communication to the Director General of Petroleum Concession (DG PC) Qazi Muhammad Saleem. Nadeem suggested DG PC to assign CWC Group of Companies the task to attract investors to attend this road show. The road show will be a futile exercise and will bore no fruit to meet the objectives of the show as the officials are following the same path, which they adopted in the 2009 road show, officials said. Even a scheduled bidding round of new 60 exploratory blocks has been extended for 90 days to make this road show a success story, sources said on Saturday.

“Since considerable and precious time has elapsed, we feel that it will not be a proper utilisation of funds to arrange and manage the event at this extremely short notice of two to three weeks,” Pakistan’s Houston Consular General wrote , adding, “We do not expect a keen response from US companies at such a short notice, on the contrary, it will give an image of non-serious effort.”

The Consulate General after consulting relevant local US businessmen in this regard suggested DG PC to reschedule event by pointing out that a similar road show at equally short notice in Houston in 2009 was organised by Petroleum Ministry with the help of a UK-based company. “Due to lack of coordination and short notice very few people attended the event and majority of participant were of Pakistani origin with no Exploration and Production (E&P) sector background, the Consul General said

Consular General has also asked that the ministry may like to attend the North America Prospect Expo (NAPE) 2013 in Houston and try to schedule the road show alongside the NAPE expo, the world’s largest E&P (upstream) expo, which provides a marketplace for the buying, selling and trading of oil and gas prospects and producing properties via exhibit booths.

NAPE currently hosts three conferences in a year - NAPE Winter will be held from February 5-8, 2013 at Houston, NAPE East will be held from April 10-12, 2013 at Pittsburgh and NAPE Summit will be held from August 14-16, 2013 at Houston.

The official delegation to attend the road show under the banner Pakistan Exploration Promotion Conference (PEPC) 2012 includes Adviser to Prime Minister on Petroleum Dr Asim Hussain, Petroleum Secretary Dr Waqar Masood, DG PC Qazi Muhammad Saleem, SNGPL MD Arif Hameed, SSGC MD Zuhair Siddiqui and former special secretary petroleum GA Sabri, MD PPL Asim Murtaza, MD LTRaza Muahammad Khan, Assistant Director (Database) Muhammad Amir, and representatives from all four provinces of the country.

It is to note here that an ex Additional Secretary GA Sabri, who was also a key official during the 2009 road show, is now part of the team flying to Houston. The MPNR had earlier initiated an enquiry against Sabri over the charges of misappropriation of funds, which, however, has now been stopped, succumbing to the persistent pressure from high-ups of ministry. In this way past experience suggests it may turn out to be just a joy trip and nothing significant may be achieved.

Documents available with this scribe also disclosed that the probe against Sabri got under way after allegations surfaced that oil and gas exploration companies were forced to contribute money for the road shows in the US, UK and Canada and the ministry granted advertising and campaign rights to firms allegedly owned and sponsored by officials of the ministry.

However, sources claimed that the top guns of the petroleum ministry at the time allegedly piled pressure on oil and gas exploration firms to contribute money to arrange road show 2009 to highlight attractive features of the petroleum policy 2009. Commissions and kickbacks were also paid during the campaign, it alleged.

Falcon Advertising and Consultants, which had made the complaint with the petroleum ministry, also claimed that extravagant spending, beyond what was permitted, led to wastage of $0.4million during the petroleum road show. “Advertising & campaign rights for the show were assigned to M/s Message Communications and M/s SEAR respectively which company is owned/ sponsored by some officials of the ministry, the documents reads.

The documents also give detail break up of the proposed budget that a heavy amount worth $911,724. However, the petroleum ministry collected $1450,000 from the road show from 28 oil and gas exploration companies, which were not legally bound to make the contribution. Oil & gas companies including BHP, BP, Eni, MOL, OGDCL, OMV, POL, PPL, and Mari Gas were among those contributors that were categorised as platinum sponsorship. And, Nikko Resources, PEL, Petronas, Tullow, MND were among those contributors that were categorised as gold sponsorship, while Dewan Petroleum, Hycarbex, KUFPEC Pakistan, New Horizon, Oil & Gas Investment Limited, OPII, Paige Limited, POGC, Premier Oil Pakistan, Saif Energy, Techno Petroleum, Zhen Hua oil were among those contributors that were categorised as silver sponsorship. 

It merits mentioning here that a scheduled bidding round of new 60 exploratory blocks has been extended for 90 days to make this road show a success story.