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Petroleum minister seeks help of provinces in curbing gas losses

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Friday sought the support of provinces in containing gas losses being faced by gas companies.

Briefing the Senate Standing Com­mittee on Petroleum here, the minister said that steps had been taken by the government to improve gas billing recoveries and modernise the sector.

The meeting discussed various issues being faced by the country’s energy sector with a special focus on natural gas.

Chairman of the committee Senator Mohsin Aziz inquired about the steps taken by the government to reform the gas sector as members of the committee expressed serious concern over inflated gas bills received by consumers.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan admits inflated gas bills were mistakenly sent to consumers

The minister admitted that inflated bills had been mistakenly sent to consumers.

“I am not hesitant in admitting that consumers were indeed sent inflated gas bills, but this act was not intentional or deliberate,” Mr Khan said, adding: “I accept the mistake, but will add that it was just a mistake and not a deliberate move.”

He further said: “I also assure you that necessary rectification measures have already been taken and separate committees have been formed which are examining the issue of gas price hike and inflated bills.”

The minister informed the committee that the steps taken by his ministry included formation of an inter-departmental inquiry, an inquiry by AF Ferguson & Co Chartered Accountants and an inquiry committee formed under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Inspection Team.

The minister said that gas prices had been increased due to mounting losses being faced by the two gas utilities and these losses now stood at Rs154 billion.

“The previous PML-N government capped the gas prices and did not allow new gas connections for four years, and they lifted the ban on new connections only in the last year of their tenure, which led to heavy financial load on gas companies.

“Gasification schemes of Rs55 billion were introduced to win seats in the general election which technically amounts to pre-poll rigging,” the minister said.

He also highlighted some of the challenges being faced by gas utilities in curbing UFG losses, including theft. “There is need to work harder for elimination of UFG losses which are as high as 72 per cent in Balochistan alone,” he added.

The minister shared with the committee the outcome of the meetings he held in Quetta with the chief minister and members of the provincial assembly and other relevant stakeholders.

The minister also shared with the committee the recent adoption of a resolution by the Balochistan Assembly for introducing a flat rate for natural gas in the province.

He said that the ministry was in constant contact with the Balochistan government in extending genuine relief, cooperation and addressing genuine concerns of the province.

Mr Khan informed the committee that the process of reimbursing inflated bills money to affected consumers had begun.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2019

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