The Energy Division's Senior Secretary Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem says that the division does not have any actual data to measure the volume of gas being supplied to customers, though it is collecting regular gas bill from them.
He made the comment in response to questions at a seminar titled 'Guideline for purchase and installation of pre-paid/smart gas meter from open market at the domestic level' at the Petrobangla office in Dhaka on Monday.
"We do not have actual gas supply and distribution data due to leakage in the gas distribution pipeline. However, we have been working on implementing an automation system to measure the actual data," he told the seminar.
Participants in the seminar were surprised to hear the secretary say this. They questioned how distribution companies prepare bills if there is no actual data on gas consumption.
Meanwhile, experts and consumers also voiced concern over the comment.
Professor M Shamsul Alam, Energy Advisor to the Consumers' Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said, "Having no system in place to measure the actual data is a crime. And there could not be any worse example of such a crime. No civilised nation can tolerate such plunder of a national asset."
There is an allegation against gas distribution companies that they are providing 44 cubic meters per month of gas to meter-less users while realising money for 88 cubic meters per month.
This is the way distribution companies show that they are in "system gain", though some officials provide unauthorised gas connections for personal benefit, alleged the consumers.
Later, The Business Standard talked to Rahmatul Muneem over the phone regarding his comment at the seminar.
He said Petrobangla can measure the volume of gas being supplied to all companies except for the biggest distributor – Titas.
Speaking at the seminar, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said that the pre-paid meter is safer and more energy-saving for users.
"There are leakages at different points in the gas pipeline from the risers to the stoves. Consumers have to be responsible for such leakages in their home connections."
Talking about the new guideline, Nasrul Hamid said, "The private sector has played a significant role in providing the electricity we are enjoying today. They brought finance from abroad very quickly."
"To expedite the energy sector, we took a similar initiative to introduce pre-paid/smart gas meters from the open market by involving private companies."
There are 43 lakh domestic consumers across the country under six gas distribution companies, and about 2.73 lakh consumers have been given pre-paid meters.
As of now, distribution companies are responsible for installing the pre-paid meters at the consumers' end, and have been charging for this service.
Dr Shah Mohammad Sanaul Hoq, joint secretary of Energy and Mineral Division presented the keynote paper while Petrobangla Chairman Md Ruhul Amin chaired the seminar.