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ISLAMABAD: Gas companies and the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) on Wednesday blamed consumers’ inflated gas bills on the government.

At a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) acting Managing Director Amir Tufail said consumers had not been sent the wrong bills.

Instead, he said, the dues have increased because tariffs were increased by the government.

Acting SNGPL MD tells Senate committee dues have risen because of increase in tariffs

“Gas companies and Ogra cannot do anything in this regard. We have decided to facilitate consumers who have received bills of over Rs20,000 by allowing them to pay their dues in four instalments,” he told senators.

“Some consumers keep their stoves on round-the-lock, because of which they jump to higher slabs and resultantly, they have to pay more. However, their bills will decrease in the coming months because gas consumption will decrease,” he said.

Ogra Chairperson Uzma Adil explained that Ogra analyses revenue requirements and sends the analysis to the Ministry of Petroleum, which sends it to the government.

The government makes the final decision on the increase in prices and slabs.

She said: “The cost of 1MMBTU is around Rs630, so Ogra proposed three slabs and it was suggested that at least 50pc of the total cost should be recovered in the first slab, in the second slab 100pc should be charged and in the third slab Rs780 per 1MMBTU should be charged.

“However the government made seven slabs, and in the last two the prices were increased by 143pc. Bills have increased because the consumption pattern charges in the winter. We have directed SNGPL to educate people on how they can conserve Sui gas.”

An inquiry committee has been established to look into the issue, Petroleum Additional Secretary Tanveer Qureshi said.

The committee’s report will be finalised in seven days, and will include the rationalisation of prices, he added.

In response to a question, Mr Qureshi said domestic users are given first priority in the provision of gas, after which come zero-rated industry and power plants, then the fertiliser sector, followed by the cement industry and then the compressed natural gas (CNG) sector.

Senator Rubina Khalid remarked that the nation was suffering because of the inflated bills.

She said people have received bills in which their dues are five times higher, and when they go to the Sui gas office they are told the pay the bill, after which it would be analysed if the charges were accurate or if there was a reading error.

“I suggest that Ogra, being a regulator, should look into the issue,” she said.

Senator Sitara Ayaz said she has also observed that bills are not adjusted at all.

Committee chair Senator Talha Mehmood directed gas companies to raise awareness among the public and ensure gas is provided to provinces where gas is extracted.

Senator Dr Asad Ashraf showed the committee a bill containing charges of Rs180 to Rs200, after which he suddenly received a bill for Rs2,000.

A number of other people also brought their bills, and said it was impossible for them to pay them.

One meeting participant said she received a gas bill for Rs6,000 two months, which then rose to Rs18,000 and eventually to Rs32,000 this month.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2019