ISLAMABAD: Public gas utilities have charged inflated bills from 3.2 million consumers because of a change in consumer slabs introduced by the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and manipulation of gas pressure factor in the case of domestic consumers.
The application of high gas pressure factor has forced many honest consumers, who pay their bills regularly, to bear an additional cost of gas consumption. According to sources, 50% of domestic consumers have been overcharged by applying the high pressure factor illegally.
Normally, the high gas pressure factor is imposed on bulk consumers like industrial units and independent power producers (IPPs), but recently the gas utilities included it in the bills of domestic consumers, which caused a substantial increase in the cost of gas consumption for these consumers.
Earlier, an inquiry committee on inflated gas bills told Prime Minister Imran Khan, in its report submitted last month, that 30% of gas consumers had been overcharged. The committee came to the conclusion after analysing data of 10,000 consumers where it found that 30% of consumers had been overcharged by applying the high gas pressure factor during winter.
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Separately, the prime minister was informed in a high-level meeting that 3.2 million gas consumers had been sent inflated bills due to manipulation on the part of gas utilities.
In another meeting chaired by Finance Minister Asad Umar, it was revealed that 50% of domestic gas consumers had received inflated bills due to wrongful application of the high pressure factor.
The inquiry committee was also investigating who had ordered the imposition of gas pressure factor in violation of the level set by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra).
According to the committee, the other reason for the inflated bills was the introduction of new consumer slabs. According to the slab revision, the gas bills increase more than 100% after a consumer falls in the next slab.
For instance, a consumer utilising 3 cubic metres of gas is required to pay Rs3,016. But his bill goes up to Rs8,840 on consuming 3.1 cubic metres, with an increase of just 0.1 cubic metre. Similarly, the cost of consuming 4 cubic metres is Rs11,406, which jumps to Rs21,884 if a consumer uses 4.1 cubic metres.
The prime minister has directed the gas utilities - Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) - to reimburse the amount overcharged from honest consumers. The government has also decided to correct the revised slabs, which has led to inflated bills, say officials.
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According to sources, the government wants to appoint a new head of SNGPL having experience in gas distribution. The company's board of directors, in its meeting on Saturday, may appoint the new head.
When approached, an SNGPL spokesperson said 48,000 gas consumers out of a total of 6.4 million had got inflated bills due to the application of high gas pressure factor. "Their bills will be corrected in a week's time," he said.
SSGC did not respond when reached for comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2019.
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