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March 14, 2019

Petroleum division asked to adjust inflated bills

Business

March 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday asked the petroleum ministry to adjust the inflated gas bills in future billing of consumers to give them relief, while directing the officials to expedite drive to recover outstanding amounts from defaulters of the power sector.

The finance minister took the decision while presiding over a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy. Umar directed the ministry of petroleum to review the inflated bills so as to reduce burden on consumers.

“He asked the Petroleum Division to adjust the inflated bills in future billing,” an official statement quoted the finance minister as saying. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already ordered to refund the amount charged from natural gas consumers through inflated bills.

Last month, a fact-finding committee constituted to probe into excessive gas billing found that at least 3.4 million consumers of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) received inflated gas bills on account of pressure factor of two to 10 percent; of them, alone 200,000 consumers were exposed to 10 percent pressure factor.

Furthermore, as many as 48,683 gas consumers were subject to the excessive billing by 100 to 200 percent. While the consumers originally fell in lower-slab category, they were moved to higher slabs due to gas pressure factor and thus losing benefits for concessionary billing envisaged for lower-slab consumers. Such consumers faced 10 to 143 percent increase in gas prices with no slab benefits. SNGPL has 6.4 million consumers.

SNGPL has imposed pressure factor in the gas bills since 2008 and Sui Southern Gas Company since 2016.

An official said pressure factor is applied to gas meters when gas consumption increases beyond the 8-inch water column pressure. If pressure factor is not imposed, then volume of unaccounted for gas would increase and so would losses of a utility.

The Cabinet Committee on Energy reviewed slabs of gas billing for domestic consumers. Petroleum Division informed the committee about the revenue shortfall being faced by the gas companies. The committee agreed to deliberate upon the issue of revenue shortfall in the Economic Coordination Committee meeting.

The committee also considered various proposals to make recovery from defaulters of the power sector on fast-track basis. The meeting stressed the need to continue campaign against the defaulters.

The energy committee asked the power division and ministry of finance to jointly work out a notification based policy for the facilitation of consumers. Such policy will help in curbing irregularities in the power sector, it said.

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