• Mumbai High production: Senior babus in dock as CAG report says Rs 260 billion loss

    The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that India lost oil & gas production worth over Rs 260 billion due to delay in awarding the Ratna and R-Series hydrocarbon blocks, 130 km off the Mumbai coast, has brought the Negotiating Team of Secretaries (NTS) under the scanner of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). At a meeting on Tuesday, the PAC, headed by Congress leader K V Thomas, was of the view that the country should have a mechanism to review the efficiency of high-level government officials associated with inter-ministerial groups or high-level groups independently of the help of regular bureaucracy, sources said. As the issue was taken up, Thomas is understood to have said that he was unable to understand the NTS, which comprised senior civil servants, keeping such a “calculated silence and inaction, if not indifference”.

    The panel is seeking the Annual Confidential Report (ACR)/Annual Performance Assessment Report (APAR)s of all the officers in the NTS and those assisting them, the sources said, adding it was of the view that being graded outstanding while the result was “apathy, inefficiency and negligence” could not co-exist. The NTS included secretaries in ministries of petroleum and natural gas and finance and chairman and managing director of ONGC. The CCEA had in 1999 approved negotiations to be held by the NTS for finalising and concluding Production Sharing Contract (PSC) within six months. The NTS set a deadline of February 2000. The PAC pointed out that the process of reaching up to a decision to finalise the PSC was not completed even after 23 years of the policy decision– 19 years of award and 16 years of approval of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

    The PAC said it was the “rarest of rare cases of extraordinary negligence and inefficiency”. Bids for private participation were invited as early as 1993 and the CCEA approved the award of contract to the Consortium of Successful Bidders (COSB) in 1996. Not a single barrel of oil was extracted since 1994 when the ONGC stopped production. The government had issued notice inviting development of R and RS fields in 1993 and a year later ONGC had stopped production of petroleum from these fields.

    The parliamentary panel noted that the government had cancelled the award in 2016, after a period of 20 years, which saw six governments at the Centre. In 2015, the CAG report had said the delay in taking a final decision on various matters was an indication of lack of seriousness in the approach of the ministry of petroleum and natural gas towards reaching at a final decision on this issue, particularly when an already developed and producing field was lying closed for more than 20 years, in contrast to the objectives of the policy to attract private investment for upstream oil sector. John Matuszak Authentic Jersey

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