ISLAMABAD - Despite stiff opposition of OGRA, a sub-committee of the federal cabinet has now authorized gas utilities to fleece gas consumers over the consumption of natural gas with Rs1.5billion in the name of ‘minimum billing’ for fiscal year 2011-12.

With the approved head minimum billing, now to onward the country’s gas consumers will have to pay the gas bill for 40-meter cube of gas regardless of consumption of gas by the consumers. An approval pertaining additional collection from consumers ostensibly seems illogical and irrational as permission cannot be granted above the set limits on account of unaccounted for gas (UfG). And, both Supreme Court and Lahore High Court have given verdicts against additionally charging the consumers on account of stolen gas. At present, gas consumers are paying the gas bills as per their gas consumption in monthly gas bills, sources said on Thursday.

Sources privy to the development informed that following the persistent demands of state-owned gas utilities - Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) to decrease the ratio of Unaccounted for Gas (UfG) which is currently fixed at 4.5 per cent, the federal cabinet’s sub body has now approved the policy guidelines under which OGRA is bound to act upon it. With the approval, gas companies will find an air of relief by ensuring decreased UfG and will also be able to decrease their losses by collecting Rs1.5billion from the consumers under head 2011-12.

The sources also told that a sub-committee meeting of the federal cabinet held under the chair of Law Minister Farooq H Naek has now given its nod to a summary of petroleum ministry which was earlier strongly opposed by the regulatory authority (OGRA) on the point that gas companies so far failed to control their losses and did not improve their operations. Finding no from OGRA, gas companies with the support of ministry of petroleum & natural resources had asked the federal cabinet to reduce their ratio for UfG. The companies had sought Rs9 billion but the cabinet’s sub body has now approved Rs1.5 billion to benefit the state owned gas companies.

Earlier, federal cabinet had declined to approve the collection of whopping Rs9 billion from the gas consumers already paying gas bill regularly. Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), Law Minister and Finance Minister while showing grave concerns over fleecing the innocent consumers had strongly opposed the summary of Petroleum Ministry, which sought Cabinet’s approval. And, both Supreme Court and Lahore High Court have given verdicts against additionally charging the consumers on account of stolen gas.  It merits mentioning here that so far the Petroleum Ministry was of the view that denial to grant the demanded allowances would threaten the financial viability of these utilities. Therefore, the Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf after a thorough review of the petroleum ministry summary decided to constitute a committee sensing the gravity of the issue under the law minister Farooq H Naek.