ISLAMABAD  -   Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown his annoyance over the delay in refunding the overbilled amounts to gas consumers and directed for immediate return of money.

Presiding over a meeting to review issues pertaining to oil and gas sector on Monday, he directed that the refund should be reflected in the upcoming gas bills, official sources privy to the meeting told The Nation.

On February 27, the prime minister had ordered the refund of excessive money to 30 percent gas consumers who have been charged with inflated gas bills.

Following his directives, the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) last week asked the managing director of SNGPL to immediately refund the extra amount charged to the consumers.

The company had charged the consumers extra amounts by applying extra gas pressure which was over and above of OGRA’s permitted pressure, the source said.

The Petroleum Division had also asked SNGPL MD to take strict action against the GMs of those areas where the consumers had been overcharged, the source added. The decision for the refund was made after the Petroleum Division presented to PM the report of a four members committee, which informed that as per their initial probe around 30 percent consumers were overcharged.

During winter, the gas bills of the domestic consumers have shown abnormal increase, mostly ranging between Rs10,000 to Rs35,000, which compelled the consumers to protest in front of several SNGPL offices.

Following the protests, the government constituted the four-member probe committee and the PM issued directions to refund the amounts in case of overbilling. The prime minister also directed for action against those responsible for sending inflated bills to the consumers.

A statement issued after the Monday meeting stated that the participants also discussed the rules and regulations pertaining to the exploration of oil and gas and administrative reforms in this regard. Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the exploration companies to expedite their efforts and told petroleum division to extend all possible assistance to foreign companies working in this sector.

He also directed to provide complete security to foreign companies. It was decided to set up a task force for security to foreign companies working in oil and gas sector.

Premier Khan was given a detailed briefing about the unnecessary hurdles in the exploration of oil and gas. To end the unnecessary delays and red-tape in the approval of oil and gas projects, he directed to digitalise all the system and removal of hurdles.

The prime minister was informed that to remove the irrelevant rules in the approval of oil and gas well development the role of Petroleum Division will be restricted to monitoring only.

The meeting also discussed measures taken by Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited and Sui Southern Gas Company for reducing the losses and gas theft.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Asad Umar, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Iftikhar Durrani, Secretary Petroleum and other senior officials of the Ministry.