Auditor terms gas meter reading accurate

Blames high consumption, slab revision for inflated consumer bills

Zafar Bhutta April 12, 2019
The cabinet committee said it was still unclear how some consumers were sent “abnormal bills”. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: An increase in gas consumption and revision in consumer slabs were the main factors that caused a hefty increase in gas bills for consumers in the 2018-19 winter season.

The Cabinet Committee on Energy had been unable to arrive at a conclusion as to how gas bills of consumers jumped sharply. However, officials suggested that the revision in gas slabs and increase in energy consumption were the major reasons behind the inflated consumer bills.

An external auditor, who conducted an audit following uproar over the inflated bills, was of the view that public gas utilities had made accurate meter reading, but the revision in gas slabs pushed up gas bills sharply for domestic consumers. In a recent meeting, the Cabinet Committee on Energy was informed that chartered accountancy firm AF Ferguson and Co was assigned the task of conducting an external audit of the gas bills sent to domestic consumers of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) for October to December 2018.

The objective of the audit was to find out the reasons behind the inflated gas bills. Now, the chartered accountancy firm has presented its audit report and has highlighted the scope of the audit.

The auditor had been asked to identify and report the number of domestic consumers in each billing slab in the period under review. It was also tasked with identifying and reporting gas consumption by domestic consumers in each billing slab in the said period. It was also asked to review the gas charges imposed on the domestic consumers.

The auditor had to determine and report the difference in gas bills in Oct-Dec 2018 and the gas charges paid by consumers in Oct-Dec 2017 keeping in view the gas tariffs and consumption volumes. Its other task was to identify and report instances of over-billing to consumers based on selected samples.

After preparing its report, the auditor gave a detailed presentation on the audit and pointed out that gas bills had been sent to domestic consumers as per actual meter reading. “The inflated bills were due to the change in slabs of some consumers and revised gas rates,” it said.

The Cabinet Committee on Energy noted that it was still not clear how some consumers were sent “abnormal bills” in the 2018-19 winter compared to the winter in 2017-18 as they consumed almost the same quantity of gas during both periods. Although gas tariffs had been revised, the impact of the revision should not have been so big, which caused a manifold increase in consumer bills, the committee said.

The cabinet body directed the Petroleum Division to analyse the bills’ database of domestic consumers of SNGPL for 2017-18 and 2018-19 winters.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2019.

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