- A Crime Against Community: SSGC has zero tolerance against gas theft and so should every citizen
A Crime Against Community: SSGC Has Zero Tolerance Against Gas Theft And So Should Every Citizen
Umer Jamshaid 6 months ago Thu 13th June 2019 | 11:27 AM
Natural gas is an indispensable fuel, It is the biggest source of primary energy with a share of 48% in Pakistan’s energy mix
Islamabad (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 13th June, 2019) Natural gas is an indispensable fuel. It is the biggest source of primary energy with a share of 48% in Pakistan’s energy mix. Pakistan can also boast of possessing one of the largest pipeline networks of nearly 150,000 kilometers for gas distribution and transmission in the world, servicing more than 8 million customers.
SSGC and SNGPL are the two main gas distribution companies operating in their designated geographical areas. One of the key technical issues being faced by a utility company around the world is that of line losses.
Globally, the transmission and distribution losses in the natural gas sector are calculated at less than 10 per cent. In case of Pakistan, it is more than 10% but may go all the way to 60% in some areas.
Let us take the example of SSGC and SNGPL. Compared to other public sector entities, both these companies have a comparatively sound reputation, especially when it comes to carrying out their core activities of transmission and distribution projects, while incorporating best business practices in day to day affairs.
They have successfully incorporated state-of-the-art technology in their operations, and have adopted a refreshing customer-centric approach that can be compared to any top utility in the region.
This is just one side of the story. However, for many years, both SSGC and SNGPL have been plagued by a major menace of line losses, which in the natural gas industry terminology is labeled as Unaccounted-for-Gas or UFG.
Definition-wise, UFG is the difference between total gas purchased and total gas accounted for as sale. Ask any manager from one of the two gas utilities about the biggest challenge his company faces and the instant reply will be ‘UFG’.
UFGis a serious issue since every 1% increase in UFG means that the Regulator or OGRA, in this case,takes away Rs. 1.2 billion from the gas companies’ profits as a penalty. Rising UFG levels have badly impacted the financial bottom-line of the gas utilities in Pakistan.While there is no doubt that there is heavy price to be paid for increasing UFG volumes.
So we need to look at the factors that have contributed to rising trend of this illegal activity. The major contributing factor behind UFG is theft of natural gas, which constitutes, according to industry estimates, more than 50% of the UFG pie.
Gas theft is a major menace since it causes a whooping annual loss of Rs. 50 billion to the national exchequer. Prime Minister Imran Khan recently directed to make countrywide crackdown on gas thieves so that consumers could be saved from carrying the burden of Rs50 billion worth gas being stolen or wasted annually.
Although in the past, a legislation was promulgated to rein in gas theft, efforts by the gas companies to control gas theft did not make much inroads. Unfortunately instead of using gas legally, a number of consumersin domestic, commercial and industrial sectors resorted to consuming the fuelvia numerousillegal ways.
They could bypass domestic and industrial meters, run heavy generators, use unauthorized connection, damage transmission lines, tamper with gas pipelines and still get away with the crime scot free.
Then in 2016, National Assembly of Pakistan passed Gas (Theft and Recovery Act) that allows to impose heavy penalties on offenders engaged in various types of gas theft.
SSGC, already burdened by rising UFG levels, was prompted by the Act to take stringent measures against gas theft cases.
Backed by SSGC Police that was established in 2015 to facilitate Company’s raiding parties to take legal action against gas thieves, as well as other law enforcement agencies such as Sindh Rangers and FIA, the Company’s Security Department, revamped as Security Services and Control Gas Theft Operations (SS & CGTO) Department.
The Department was structured on more professional and result-oriented waywith the establishment of gas theft intelligence, security, prosecution and operations wings. Ever since its formation in July 2017, SS & CGTO Department has undertaken 127intelligence based operations across Sindh by conducting raids on those domestic, commercial and industrial units that were involved in blatant gas theft.
Overall, the department has conducted around 1,300 raids since 2017. In May 2018, in the first such arrest, a road side restauranteur in Karachi was arrested on theft charged and was sentenced for five years and fined Rs.
50,000. Since then, around 25 miscreants have so far been apprehended and jailed. In February this year, a CNG station owner was sentenced to thirteen years and was fined Rs. 180 million on account of gas theft.As a result of these operations, natural gas worth 1,500MMCF to date has been saved.
SSGC officials who collude with the miscreants have also not been spared. SSGC’s efforts have been further boosted by the establishment of more than 37 gas utility courts in Sindh and Balochistan, as defined in the Act, to take punitive action against the offenders and serve them with punishment commensurate with the type of theft committed.
The Act also gives other privileges’ to the gas utility in bringing the thieves to book including giving any Grade-17 officer power to search any premises where gas is supplied or consumed in a manner that is regarded as offence.
Section 25 of Gas Act 2016 specifically states that if an incident of a bona fide theft is reported to the Company, the reporting individual, as per law will be eligible to 5% of any recovered amount.
The law does not just give the gas companies the mandate to nab the criminals but spurs a common citizen into playing a participatory role in prosecuting the wrong doers.SSGC encourages people to report any incident of gas theft on a designated email and whatsapp, with a promise of a reward to the information provider as per the Act.
The Company’s Corporate Communication Department is regularly running media campaigns in print, electronic, social media and digital media publications that reiterates a collective effort from all sections of the society to rise against this crime against community.
SSGC has always been serious in combating gas theft. There is a now a new determination and a strong resolve to put a stranglehold on gas theft. In this effort, the Company is seeking the support of the government, general public and the media to make it a win-win situation for all concerned.