Titas Gas ‘juggles consumer figure’ with no new household connections for years
The Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company has stopped feeding households for a few years now, but the number of its domestic consumers has grown by 35 percent between July 2016 and June 2017.
The company, one of the six state-owned distribution entities, sells almost 60 percent of gas Bangladesh produces from its fields. It covers 12 districts, including Dhaka.
Its top official Mir Moshiur Rahman says it happened as they have moved to digitalised database from manual ledgers.
Consumer rights activists, however, find the explanation lame and the numbers are fudged.
M Shamsul Alam, the energy affairs adviser to the Consumers Association of Bangladesh or CAB, says that cannot be the case.
The Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating several Titas officials on corruption charges, which include supplying gas through illegal connections.
According to Titas annual report, its household consumers numbered nearly 2.01 million until June 2016 and within a year it jumped to 2.71 million.
Gas connections to households have been stopped for a few years, two senior officials of Titas and PetroBangla, the state owned oil, gas and mineral corporation, confirmed to media.
According to them, the only thing concerning household gas supply now happening is installation of 200,000 pre-paid gas metres across capital Dhaka.
Titas Managing Director Rahman’s explanation to the jump in the consumer figure is, “There had been some inconsistencies on the records, which have been updated”
According to the state-owned company’s annual report, its IT system was ‘modernised’ in the 2016-17 fiscal, which included ‘updating the ledger-based records of household consumers on a database.’
It says the ‘updating process’ caused the number of consumers to rise.
But CAB’s Alam has swatted away the explanation. “How is it at all possible that the number of consumers will go up when the IT system is upgraded?”
He said the explanation is a kind of ‘manipulation’ suggesting it is an information fraud.
In 2016-17, Titas made profits of Tk 5.06 billion from the sale of 17,018 million cubic metre of gas.
With a Tk 45 billion capital, the state-owned company employs almost 4,000 people.
Highlighting the illegal connections and pilferage, the annual report says it has disconnected over half a million connections in 2016-17 and most of them were household links.
In 2013, Titas gave the opportunity to legalise illegal household connections to those who would file their applications within June that year. Four years later, that process is still going on.
Titas top official Rahman, however, is reluctant to accept the over 700,000 increase of connections in a year as ‘illegal.’
“We have 26 zonal offices and they lacked coordination,” is what he said.
But a former top PetroBangla official finds the explanation absurd as well.
“They had no records of the 700,000 consumers until now; how can that be an explanation?” he told media, preferring anonymity.
He also wondered how Titas’ board of directors accepted this ‘illogical information’. The board cleared the annual report during the Dec 21 annual general meeting.
media reached Energy Secretary Nazimuddin Chowdhury, who heads the board of Titas, for a comment, but he suggested the managing director be spoken to.
Asked whether he noted the jump in household connections in a year, the bureaucrat’s reply was, “I cannot say anything on this matter. Speak with the MD of Titas.”