ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has acknowledged that it is responsible for the inflated gas bills sent to a majority of consumers following a revision in gas slabs, but it appears to be reluctant to reimburse billions of rupees.
Audit firm AF Ferguson and Company has submitted its report, saying 93% of gas consumers out of 3.2 million connected to the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited’s (SNGPL) network have received inflated bills because of the change in slabs from three to seven by the PTI government.
However, the government wants to return the excess amount to those consumers only who received heavy bills due to wrong application of gas pressure factor. Around 3.2 million consumers got inflated bills, of which 48,000 were affected by the high pressure factor. The government has vowed to reimburse the excess amount by the end of June this year.
However, it has not taken any decision on the 93% gas consumers, who received inflated bills due to the revision in slabs.
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“I admit mistake in the revision of gas slabs and it was a decision of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC),” said Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan in an informal briefing to journalists on Tuesday, adding that the government would rectify the mistake.
He said the government would return the amount till June this year to the consumers who had received inflated bills due to the application of gas pressure factor, but it had yet to take a decision on reimbursing the consumers hurt by the revision in slabs. The cabinet in a meeting held on Tuesday also held deliberations on revisiting the gas slabs and the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) would take up the issue on Wednesday.
“The ECC will review whether the consumers, who were affected by the new slabs, can be reimbursed or not,” the petroleum minister said.
Responding to a question on the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) demand for increase in gas prices, he emphasised that the government would resist the tariff hike.
About increase in liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Qatar, the minister revealed that Doha had offered a lower gas price compared to the existing price, adding that Saudi Arabia had also expressed interest in exporting LNG at a cheaper rate of $9.6 per million British thermal units (mmbtu).
“Malaysia has also offered LNG export; the government will take decision in the national interest,” he said.
About offshore drilling, the minister reiterated that there could be good news, but work was still under way. “The exploration company is to drill up to 5,500 metres deep and it has so far reached 4,000 metres,” he said, adding exploration companies had given a plan for investing $75 million in the project. He said the PTI government had offered 10 blocks to exploration companies, but no international company participated in the process.
He also revealed that a summary had been sent to the cabinet, seeking appointment of chairman and board of directors of Sui Southern Gas Company, Pakistan Petroleum Limited, OGDC and SNGPL, which would be taken up in the next meeting.
Nomination of professional women had also been proposed for the boards of companies and provinces had also been given representation in the new boards, he said.
He stressed that the government was working on reducing gas losses by setting the target of curtailing the unaccounted-for-gas (UFG) level of public utilities by 1% every year.
He dismissed the talk that he was sidelined from chairmanship of the Cabinet Committee on Energy, saying he had offered resignation to the prime minister because of the problems faced by the Power and Petroleum Divisions. He also dispelled the impression that he was asked to resign due to the gas crisis and inflated bills.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2019.