ISLAMABAD: The cabinet committee on energy on Wednesday put a decision of correcting gas slabs on hold till June this year in a bid to allow inefficient gas utilities to continue charging higher bills from the gas consumers.
The cabinet body on energy which met with Finance Minister Asad Umar in the chair was informed that gas consumption was high in the winter season and, therefore, the consumers were affected due to entering into higher slabs. It was further informed that consumers falling in the last two slabs had been charged higher gas bills.
According to the new gas slabs scheme approved by Tehreek-e-Insaf government, the gas companies charged more than double bills at every new slab.
The gas consumers utilising gas of 3 cubic meters (3Hm3) were to pay Rs3,016. However, this bill went up to Rs8,840 on consuming gas of 3.1 Hm3, just with increased consumption of 0.1HM3. Similarly, the price of consuming 4M3 gas was Rs11,406 which jumped to Rs21,884 for the consumers who used 4.1 HM3 gas.
The cabinet body also noted that consumption of gas would drop in summers by the domestic consumers and, therefore, the slabs should be revised in June 2019 after determination of estimated revenue requirement by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) next financial year 2019-20.
It was informed that high gas consumption in winters attracted higher bills and, besides, there was no slab benefit like Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) in gas bills. The prime minister in a high-level meeting last month was informed that 3.2 million gas consumers had been overcharged due to manipulation of the gas companies – SNGPL and SSGC.
In another meeting chaired by the finance minister, it was informed that 50 per cent domestic gas consumers had received inflated bills due to the manipulated use of applying higher gas pressure factor on domestic consumers.
The cabinet body in its meeting held on Wednesday reviewed slabs of gas billing for domestic consumers. The finance minister directed the Ministry of Petroleum to review the inflated bills so as to reduce the burden on consumers. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already ordered to refund the amount charged from natural gas consumers through inflated bills. He asked the petroleum division to adjust the inflated bills in future billing.
The petroleum division informed the committee about the revenue shortfall being faced by the gas companies. It was informed that SNGPL will have a shortfall of Rs164.4 billion and SNGPL Rs24 billion by the end of June 2019, according to the determination of Ogra for 2018-19. The committee agreed to deliberate upon the issue of revenue shortfall in the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) meeting.
The committee also considered various proposals to make recovery on fast track basis from defaulters of the power sectors. It stressed the need to continue the campaign against the defaulters.
The committee decided that power division and ministry of finance would jointly work out a policy for the facilitation of consumers. Such a policy will help curb irregularities in the power sector.
(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on March 14th, 2019)