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February 7, 2019

Auditors tasked to probe into inflated gas billing

Business

February 7, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Government on Wednesday decided to hire independent auditors to probe into the matters of inflated and excessive gas billings and seek inquiry reports in the coming week.

The Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE), at a meeting, decided to conduct an independent audit of the billing for December 2018 through external auditors in addition to the inquiry on excessive billing already been conducted by the petroleum division.

Minister for Finance Asad Umar presided over the meeting, which was especially called on the instructions of the Prime Minister Imran Khan to look into the matter of inflated gas billings to the consumers.

The reports of both the inquiries and the independent audit would be submitted to CCoE in its next meeting that is scheduled for the coming week.

“The government is highly sensitive to the problems being faced by the general public and any innovative solution to their problems will be implemented on priority basis,” finance minister Umar was quoted as saying in an official statement.

Prior to the decision, Mian Asad Hayaud Din, additional secretary in-charge of the petroleum division gave a detailed presentation to the committee on the recent billing exercise of the gas sector.

Uzma Adil Khan, chairperson of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and Managing Director Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) also gave their input on the recent gas billing exercise during the presentation.

They briefed the committee that the consumers are billed according to the billing slabs in which they fall in accordance with their consumption.

Hayaud Din said an inquiry has already been launched to look into the matter following the complaints of a large number of consumers. The inquiry would look at the issue comprehensively from all the different angles.

The additional secretary told the committee that there has been an overall increase of eight percent in the consumption pattern of the consumers falling in the lowest consumption slab.

Out of the total 6400,000 gas consumers, only 92,000 fall in the 6th and 7th (highest consumption slabs) who have been particularly adversely affected by high gas bills.

Khan said domestic gas consumption doubled during the December, which changed the pricing slabs for numerous consumers. “The data for the last two months may be looked into to find any prominent anomaly if any.”

The meeting also discussed the issue of gas theft and the action taken against illegal practices and the determination of the unaccounted for gas (UFG) loss benchmark. CCoE directed the ministry of energy to address the issue.

SNGPL earlier said it brought down its UFG losses to 8.07 percent in 2016/17 from as high as 11.17 percent back in 2012/13. The utility’s UFG for FY2017 is 8.07 percent, which includes impact of allowances against factors beyond the company’s control.

The company said Ogra has yet to finalise UFG figure of the last fiscal year.

UFG losses comprise of three major components, including gas theft, leakages and measurement errors. Aging pipes are prone to leakages if not maintained, weak or faulty measurement equipment hampers vigilance of supplies to densely populated areas, and remote areas in domestic sector are susceptible to theft, according to the study’s findings.

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