State-run oil marketing companies (OMC) are plodding on framing enhanced penalties against corrupt petrol pump operators by amending the Marketing Discipline Guidelines (MDG) as the Petroleum Ministry is insisting on bringing errant OMC officers also under the purview of the revised MDG.
During a review meeting on September 13 to assess the progress of MDG amendments to curb rampant tampering of meters at the dispensing unit, the ministry pulled up the OMCs for keeping its executives out of the ambit of the punishments for any wrongdoing.
“While deliberating on the issue, it was noted with concern that punitive actions that were expected to be taken by OMC in all suspect cases including original equipment manufacturers as well as OMC executives were found missing,” it said.
It advised the OMCs to “take up accountability” of ensuring the delivery of right quality and quantity of petroleum products while drawing lessons from the global practices.
This was in reaction to OMCs’ avowal that they were incorporating “three major amendments” to the MDG to include “stringent penalty” on the dealer in case of short delivery, “heavy penalty” in case an automated retail outlet was operated in manual mode and “enhanced penalty” in case of unclean or locked toilets.
On the issue of submitting the modified MDG, the OMCs promised to do it “shortly”. The initial deadline for submission was last July which was later extended by a month during which they were to “accord highest priority” to notify them by end August.
In December 2005, OMC officials had opposed three provisions of the then proposed amendments which included action against officers due to irregularities at retail outlets; at refinery supply points and depots; and at company owned and company operated (COCO) retail outlets.
Following the meter tampering scam detected in Uttar Pradesh last April, the Ministry directed the OMCs to prepare an action plan for surprise raids on all retail outlets through a third party and punish dealers as well as officials — who it suspects are in an unholy alliance with petrol pump owners.
It issued a four-pronged strategy including an “immediate time-bound stringent departmental action” against OMC officers found guilty. It had reasoned that tampering was getting rampant primarily because neither the detection drive was being strictly followed by the OMCs’ sales officers nor a technical mechanism to detect them was foolproof.
A Ministry note said that the repeated occurrence of such incidents was the unwarranted delays by the OMC officials in taking action against serious offences committed by the dealers. This, it saw as a sign of dealer-official nexus.