GAIL chairman Tripathi grilled by angry MPs

Vol 16, PW 17 (21 Mar 13) People & Policy

For two years BC Tripathi had been assiduously avoiding calls by MPs on the influential Standing Committee on Petroleum & Natural Gas to appear in person.

Finally this month, 31 irritated MPs said enough was enough and dragged the GAIL chairman to parliament for the grilling of his life. Over two days on March 12 and March 19, Tripathi was summoned to parliament so MPs could get the answers they were looking for.

“Tripathi never comes to our meetings," says an MP on the committee. “He always sends junior officials.

That’s why we called him in person. Initially we planned to meet him on March 12 only but 90 minutes was not enough so we called him again a week later.

” MPs are furious GAIL is spending huge amounts overseas when large swathes of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam have no gas pipelines. They asked why GAIL is selling its 4.6% stake in Hong Kong-listed China Gas Holdings, a CGD and LPG operator, acquired in 2005 for Rs137cr ($25m).

"Tripathi denied GAIL is selling its China Gas stake," we learn. MPs also queried GAIL's five consecutive years of losses in Shell Compressed Natural Gas Egypt (SCNGE), a JV with Shell set up to build CNG stations in Cairo.

MPs accused GAIL of not being transparent in its acquisition of overseas assets or when setting up CGD joint ventures such as Indraprastha Gas, Mahanagar Gas, or Aavantika Gas. “Overseas acquisitions through a subsidiary or JV companies do not come under government scrutiny,” adds the MP.

“We want to know if GAIL set them up to avoid government audits.”