A Bangladeshi newspapers edited by former energy Advisor to Prime Minster (Khaleda Zia) has published an allegation of financial scam of US$ 5 million against the current Energy Advisor to Prime minister Hasina Wazed. Quoting a letter of an unidentified person named Abu Siddique claiming to represent Petrobangla officials alleged that Chevron, an IOC operating in Bangladesh under PSC with Petrobangla and Government of Bangladesh paid graffiti to PM ‘s Advisor Dr Tawfique-E –Elahi Chowdhury BB and Sajib Wajed Joy, Son of PM Hasina, an IT Engineer now living and working in USA.
Incidentally this report is printed at a time when leading political personalities are denouncing BNP decision to amend its constitution to create a special position of Senior Vice Chairman to rehabilitate Tareq Zia now under treatment in London. He is however on bail and under trail for several cases of money laundering and corruption. Various media reports are printed almost every other day in Bangladesh media about multi-mode corruptions of Hawa Bahaban syndicate created by Tareq Zia.
Following the publication of the report there had been angry responses from ruling party. Some ministers and some leaders of Awami League tried to blast the paper and its editor. The BNP Chairperson came to aide of her ex Advisor condemning alleged threats against the Editor. BNP leaders also gave press statements. The journalist in question was also reportedly attacked while on way to office. Alll these indicate that these might be a pre-planned move of a vested quarter to create smoke. A few weeks earlier Engr Mahmud also alleged about a similar attack on his car almost in similar location on Airport road.
Journalism is a noble profession. Objective journalism can be of great assistance for establishing the rule of law, strengthen democracy. Bangladesh enjoys freedom of press. When a leading newspaper prints any report involving a senior Government policy maker, son of the PM and a leading International Oil Company the issue must be properly investigated. It is only ethical to talk to persons concerned as such news definitely tarnishes the image of the country and persons concerned. Dr Tawfique was leading a team to a Road Show in London in a desperate effort to attract investment for crisis prone Bangladesh Energy sector. Sajib Wazed Joy lives in USA. He could be reached as well. Chevron has a Dhaka office. Unfortunately nobody has been contacted for that report.
Before we look into the allegation and its authenticity at this very important stage let us see the technical and contractual part of it. The allegation in question is giving undue advantage to Chevron for setting up a Gas Pipeline Compressor station on GTCL owned and Operated National Gas Grid at Midland Manifold station at Muchai near Rashidpoor Gas Field, Habiganj. Chevron is an international oil company (IOC) now operating Jalalabad, Moulavibazar and Bibiyana Gas Field under PSC and trading gas with Petrobangla under GPSA. GTCL is the 100% Government owned Bangladeshi Gas Transmission Company having natural monopoly for gas transmission in Bangladesh. In the present Gas sector development and operation management sector operations have been unbundled. Production, Transmission and Distribution & Marketing are three distinct segments. Production companies can set up well head booster compressors to enhance recovery but setting up pipe line compressor station is exclusively the right and obligation of GTCL. PSC with Chevron does not cover its opportunity to set up such Compressor station under cost recovery at all. If that is to be done it definitely requires a different agreement.
The installation of compressor stations is a part of GTCL project under GTDP funded by ADB. This was conceived in 2004 when this writer was serving as Director (Operation) GTCL and was also Project Director of Compressor Project. 178 Km long 24 inches outer diameter Golapganj, Sylhet to Ashuganj, Brahmanbaria North – South Pipeline and 82 KM Long 30 Inches outer diameter Rashidpoor –Ashuganj Loop Line was evacuating about 800 MMCFD gas from Bianibazar, Koillashtilla, Jalalabad, Fenchuganj, Rashidpoor, Habiganj and Titas Gas Field Location 5 gas to national grid at that time. Moulavibazar gas field was under development. Talks on Bibiyana Development have just started. The network simulation analysis using Winflow software acquired from Cairn Energy through Petrobangla emanated some options to improve the transmission capacity to meet increasing gas demand of load centres at Chittagong and Dhaka areas.
Building a second loop line and Compressors at Muchai and Ashuganj were the two options. Those who know know building loop line in sand hills and operating it are always challenging. Once the hills are disturbed during pipe laying land slide expose the pipelines causing drainage of huge money for reinstatement. This writer as Project Manager of R- A Loop line and Operator of National Gas Grid had first hand experience.
We made through analysis and comparative analysis of costs and time of implementation. It evidenced that setting up compressor stations was the better option in the context of cost and time. We had to overcome serious opposition from some senior Petrobangla colleagues who always enjoyed procurement of line pipes and other materials from abroad and had very little reason to technically oppose Compressor station initiative.
Mahmudur Rahman as Advisor to PM on Energy and himself as Gas Professional should have owned this project and see its smooth implementation during his tenure. But he could care less. The project limped through 2005 and 2006. In first attempt of GTCL to engage EPCM contractor some foul play was detected and the contract was terminated. Unfortunately GTCL and Petrobangla failed to attract major Compressor contractors for the tender. No one even checked the applicability of GTCL estimates judging from market situation. Dr. MD Tamim was the energy advisor to Care taker Government. He also did not take required initiative. GTCL made inordinate delay in re-tendering process. The gas system in absence of required transmission capacity and poor gas transmission management (no on-stream pigging and other routine transmission operation) caused gas draught in the entire gas system. Power generation, Fertilizer production, operation of industries heavily suffered. All these could be avoided if the pipeline compressors were in place as scheduled by early 2008.
In the meantime Moulavibazar and Bibiyana Gas fields came into operation. Non Professional PB superiors allowed Chevron to deliver @650MMCFD gas into congested super saturated North –South Gas Transmission corridor which adversely impacted on system pressure.
GTCL completed Compressor tender evaluation and Identified Hyundai as the evaluated lowest bidder. But its quoted price appeared much higher than estimate. Still using contingency fund and diverting some fund from other less priority down stream projects Compressor stations could be given go ahead. But a certain group of Corrupt Petrobangla executives were keen on buying expensive line pipes. Misusing their position they started negotiating with Chevron convincing them to invest on Muchai Compressor station.
In the meantime higher gas production from the nearest to Muchai gas field and delay in setting up Bibiyana 450 MW power plant completely changed gas transmission scenario. Higher arrival pressure at Muchai negated the requirement of Muchai Compressor station.
PB opportunist group could successfully misguide government policy makers to cancel GTCL tender process and allow Chevron build and hand over Muchai Compressor to GTCL under cost recovery provision of Bibiyana PSC. It may be mentioned here that PSC cost recovery provision can not be applicable to a transmission infrastructure of several open access h gas pipelines. Today and tomorrow this will be legally challenged. If PB opportunists thought this all right then on what basis they were contesting with Chevron over wheeling Charges in the arbitration? The budget that Chevron got approved for Muchai Compressor station is relatively higher than what Hyundai would have got. Moreover, Compressor station at Muchai has now become unnecessary. The money to be spent there now can be used for other production and transmission facilities.
Now coming back to allegation of bribing Chevron or any IOC can not bribe any officials of any government to win work. As far as we know it was the ex-Petrobangla Chairman who requested Chevron and convinced them to take up the initiative. It is also unbelievable that a very intelligent bureaucrat Dr Tawfique will make such a cheap work.
Engr. Mahmudur Rahman, the editor of the newspaper has initiated this debacle. Circumstantial evidences prove that it is a part of a game plan to cover the corruption charges which are active against Tareq Zia and Hawa Bhaban. Mr Mahmud earlier on some occasions have taken journalists, respectable members of civil society to dock. Now he has to prove the authenticity of allegations his publication has made. The aggrieved persons have every right to seek compensations for damages this report already made. As ex BOI Executive Chairman Mahmud must realise the extent of damage the report has made to a person who is trying to woo foreign investment in investment hungry Bangladesh energy sector. The government must conduct a thorough inquiry into the whole episode.
Kh. A. Saleque (Saleque Sufi) is the ex-Director ( Operation) GTCL and writes from Australia.
[Read all posts by Kh. A. Saleque]