Islamabad  -   The government yesterday removed Managing Director Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) for sending inflated gas bills to consumers.

According to a notification Mahmood Zia has been given additional charge of the MD Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).

Earlier this month, the Petroleum Division had asked SNGPL to refund extra amount to gas consumers and take action against all those who had overcharged the consumers by applying fraudulent gas pressure factor. Following directives, the SNGPL board removed Acting MD Amir Tufail from his post and appointed Mahmood Ahmad Zia as an MD. Mahmood is working for the past 31 years in distribution, construction, operations and maintenance of gas pipeline of SNGPL.

An official of the Petroleum Division told this scribe, “Both Petroleum Division and SNGPL were equally responsible for inflated gas bills but the Petroleum Division took action against SNGPL only trying to save the skin of its own officials involved in gas slab determination.”

Regarding excessive bills, the petroleum minister last week told a parliamentary committee that there were two reasons behind inflated bills and these included introduction of new slabs and extra pressure factor.

“Seven slabs were introduced and I accept the responsibility that the technical mistake has been committed in it and we will revisit it and bring new slabs”.

“Besides,” he added, “pressure factor was also one of the reasons behind the inflated bills.”

The OGRA had allowed less than two percent pressure factor. He said in tail end areas due to low pressure, the consumers used compressors to suck more gas, but as the domestic gas meters were not made for such use, so it could not absorb such pressure and stopped recording quantity of gas consumed. Mostly, 50 percent (3.2 million consumers) have been sent excessive bills on SNGPL system which has 6.4 million consumers in total.

For excessive pressure, the government removed MD SNGPL, however, the ministry officials were spared and no action was taken against them over introduction of seven slabs. Neither the Petroleum Division (Directorate General Gas) nor the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) had any role in determination or working out tariff slabs of the gas prices for the consumers, said official sources. The seven slabs and high gas prices were not worked out by the DG gas instead it was done by the Directorate General Petroleum Concessions. However, no action was initiated against the officials of the DGPC involved in introduction of seven slab mechanism.

The government has already announced to revisit the gas tariff slabs and refund Rs2.5 billion to consumers in few months. 

During winter, the gas bills of the domestic consumers have shown abnormal increase which compelled the consumers to protest in front of several SNGPL offices. The domestic consumers had protested over high gas bills ranging from 12,000 to 35,000. Following the protest, the government had constituted a four-member committee to probe inflated gas bills sent to domestic consumers.

On February 27, Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered refunding of excessive money to those gas consumers who had been charged with inflated gas bills.

It is pertinent to mention here that Amir Tufail is the second MD SNGPL who has been removed from his post within a span of less than 70 days.

Earlier in December, following the gas crisis in the country, the Petroleum Division, on the directive of the prime minister, had constituted fact-finding committee. On January 9 the government removed the MD of both SNGPL and SSGC after the Petroleum Division secretary, in his report sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan, had said the managements of SNGPL and SSGC were responsible for gas crisis. Amjad Latif, MD of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited, while Muhammad Amin Rajput acting MD of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) were removed from their posts. The SNGPL’s board gave the acting charge to Deputy Managing Director Finance Amir Tufail whereas the SSGC board gave the acting MD charge to Deputy Managing Director Corporate Services Imran Farookhi.