The government unveils its plans to “reform” regulatory authorities OGRA and NEPRA, whose dismal performance is proving to be a headache for the sitting government. The purpose of establishing regulatory authorities like OGRA is to establish a set price for commodities so all parties involved, governments, investors and consumers, benefit from them. However, the history of Pakistani politics shows that such bodies have little to no authority, and they are kept purposefully decorative, as large corporations and stakeholders do not accept interference in the way they conduct business. To blame OGRA for being inefficient now is not only hypocritical, but also downright outrageous on part of the government.

OGRA has been kept as a cosmetic authority on the pretense of keeping transparency in matters of regulating the price of fuel. A number of incompetent officials were posted there, usually cronies of the sitting government so that it could not impose any substantial and critical decisions. Its management is in turmoil once again as a committee has been formed once again to hire a new chairman for the regulator. Prominent candidates include Ministry of Petroleum Adviser Zahid Muzaffar, who again is a close confidant of some influential ministers and also holds the additional portfolio of Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) chairman. He presents a conflict of interest in playing the role of chairman with integrity and transparency.

Oil and gas companies have meanwhile violated all of OGRA’s decisions to maximise profits on the cost of consumers. Both Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Ltd (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) had ignored all important decisions of the authority regarding setting tariffs. Just last month OGRA recommended a cut of Rs.7 in the prices of petrol but the government only reduced prices by Rs 1. When LNG prices had witnessed a decline in global market, the gas utility increased prices. If that is not violation of the basic rights of the consumer then what is?

If the Ministry of Petroleum and the federal government are so keen on running the show then why are valuable resources being utilised to give paychecks to officials that have no say in any matter? The Centre has virtually destroyed any positive role that the regulator might play. Regulatory authorities must be allowed to work independently and be given the right balance of power to ensure transparency. The energy crisis will never be resolved if oil and gas companies are allowed to benefit from the misery of poor consumers that are burdened with huge bills at the end of the month.