PM Imran Khan orders crackdown on gas theft

Imran asks authorities to remove gas connections of all, including politicians, who steal gas

Shahbaz Rana April 04, 2019
Prime Minister Imran Khan. PHOTO: PTI

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered authorities to launch a crackdown against politicians involved in gas theft in view of the rising gas losses in Islamabad and Lahore regions.

The premier gave this order on Wednesday while reviewing performance of state owned utility companies – the Sui Northern Gas Company Limited (SNGPL) and the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC).

The PM was informed that politicians belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal were involved in gas theft in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The SNGPL shared the bill details of the members of National Assembly (MNAs) belonging to the PML-N whose factories were paying a few thousands rupees bills while consuming gas worth many hundred thousand rupees.

“PM Khan has directed authorities to discontinue gas connections of all those who are involved in gas theft including politicians,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told The Express Tribune.

“The PM said if he has to change managing directors (MDs) of these companies again, he would not hesitate. The government has already removed two MDs due to their poor performance,” he added.

Khan was informed that due to gas theft, leakages and other losses, the companies were sustaining Rs45 billion annual losses, according to a handout issued by the PM’s Office after the meeting. The PM directed authorities to reduce Unaccounted for Gas (UFG) losses by nearly half in the next two years.

These companies had proposed to cut losses close to 40% in the next three years but the PM did not accept the proposal. The SNGPL’s losses stand at 11 per cent and the SSGCL’s losses are 16 per cent. These losses are far higher than permitted by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra).

The losses on account of theft amount to Rs19 billion, losses due to leakages amount to Rs11.25 billion while annual losses are estimated at Rs14.5 billion, said the official handout.

The PM was told that the UFG losses in Islamabad and Lahore regions were on the rise, as the SNGPL struggles to enforce its writ and improve the supply system.

The PTI government has been struggling to address the energy sector’s inefficiencies and give a viable plan. It has also not been able to provide a permanent solution to the circular debt.

The high gas losses are being passed on to the consumers, as the SNGPL and SSGC seek up to 144% increase in gas prices from July this year.

The PM was also informed that due to illegal connections inserted in the main pipeline passing through the K-P’s Karak district, dozens of surrounding villages were exposed to a major disaster. Nearly 93% of the gas provided to the Karak district is being stolen, said the SNGPL.

Due to this, the UFG losses of Peshawar region, which have resulted in an increase in overall UFG of the company, are the highest followed by Lahore region.  Excluding Peshawar and Mardan regions, the SNGPL losses could come down to 7.7 per cent.

The UFG loss is caused by theft, leakage and measurement errors. The SSGCL faces main losses in Balochistan where nearly half of the gas is not accounted for. The PM directed the Petroleum Division to hold meetings with the chief ministers of Balochistan and the K-P to get their support to stop the theft.