ISLAMABAD - A committee constituted by the government to resolve the issue of inflated gas bills has submitted its report and has proposed various options to revise the slab structure and billing mechanism to provide relief to the gas consumers.

However, the committee has not recommended any reduction in the gas prices, official sources told The Nation here Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the government had constituted a four-member committee to probe inflated gas bills sent to domestic consumers. According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division), in view of current complaints regarding excessive and inflated gas bills sent to large number of consumers, Secretary Petroleum Asad Hayauddin has constituted a four-member committee to look into the matter. Additional Secretary (Policy) Sher Afgan Khan was its chairman, Director General Gas, Shahid Yousaf as secretary/member while Director General Lequified Gas, Imran Ahmad and General Manager billing Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) were the members.

The committee was constituted following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directive to federal minister for petroleum to conduct an enquiry into the issue. The domestic consumers were hit hard by increase in gas prices as they were paying the highest of all categories. During winter, the gas bills of domestic consumers have shown abnormal increase which has compelled the consumers to protest in front of several SNGPL offices. For the last couple of weeks, domestic consumers are protesting over high gas bill prices ranging from 12000 to 35000 for domestic consumers.

The committee was tasked to look into the issue of excessive billing in view of the increased price slab recently introduced by the government and findings about the reason and justification of the excessive domestic bills. The committee was also tasked to look at the new slabs and suggest any rationalisation in view of the unprecedented increase in domestic gas bills.

The four-member committee has submitted its report to the Federal Secretary Petroleum and it has made various proposals to resolve the issue of the inflated bills. One proposal is the one slab benefit to consumers, which means that the same slab should be charged with the same rate and above slabs will be charged with the rate of that particular slab. This way the consumers can be protected from inflated bills. The other proposal is the last three slabs should be provided the slab benefits. There is also a proposal of merging the last three slabs in one as it applies the same rates. The committee also proposed the slab benefits should be only provided during winter season and in summer the normal slab should be provided, said the source. The source said that the recommendations of the committee will be presented to the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCE) for final approval. 

It is pertinent to mention here that while revising the gas prices, Ogra had proposed only three slabs and had recommended the gas price for the domestic and commercial consumers using less than 100 cubic metres per month at Rs294.55 per unit (180 percent increase) from Rs105.15 per unit, while the second slab using from 101 to 300 cubic metres per month (both commercial and residential) would be charged Rs589.09 per unit instead of Rs210.31.The prescribed price for third domestic slab of more than 300 cubic metres per month would be jacked up by 26.4 percent and charged at Rs664.52 per unit instead of Rs525.76.

On the other hand, the petroleum division has recommended seven slabs with Rs 1460 per unit charging the consumers using above 400 cubic metres per month. This rate is almost the same to RLNG price.

The current billing mechanism is in favour of the Sui companies, i.e. if a consumer consumes up to 300 cubec meters gas per month, he will be charged at Rs 275 per unit for the entire consumption and the monthly bill will be Rs10940 (including gas price+meter rent+GST) but if he goes up to 301 then he will be charged at the rate prescribed for new slab which is Rs 780 per unit for the entire consumption. In the same way, if he goes up to 401 cubic meters, he will be charged Rs 1460 for the entire consumption and it will take the consumer monthly bill to more than 25000 per month.

According to OGRA’s proposal, the consumers in first slab with 100 cubic meter consumption will pay Rs 296 per unit and if he goes up to 101 then charge only one unit in the 2nd slab and the remaining in the first slab. If you apply this procedure to the entire slabs then the issue of overbilling can be resolved.

The other reason of the high bills are violation of OGRA’s gas pressure rules by SNGPL, said the source. OGRA in a letter asked the SNGPL that “application of higher pressure factory by the SNGPL is resulting in higher gas bills as it may put to the next higher billing slab,” the source added.