SC orders complete audit of CNG stations by Dec 17

ISLAMABAD, Dec 6: Paying no attention to the hue and cry raised by the CNG Association for an increase in prices of the transport fuel, the Supreme Court asked the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) on Thursday to complete auditing of CNG stations by Dec 17.

“It is the primary duty of Ogra under the relevant laws to protect the rights of consumers,” observed a two-judge bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain. It said the court could not allow exploitation of the common man.

The bench is seized with a controversy kicked off after the Oct 25 court decree which led to a reduction in the CNG price by Rs31 per kg.

“The licence to run gas filling stations should be cancelled if they cannot maintain their accounts,” it said, adding that transparency in the process was the court’s concern.

Adjournment of the case for another 11 days means that CNG prices will remain unchanged. However, the consumers continue to face hardship as they wait in long queues for their turn to fill car tanks.

A number of CNG stations have closed down because of the price issue.

CNG station owners tried their best to impress upon the court to consider ordering Ogra to allow the price hike, but their eagerness got dampened when the court reminded them that it had not yet gone into the question of pocketing of Rs31 per kg of gas as profit by the station owners for four years.

A member of the CNG Association even suggested appointment of an independent commission to determine who was at fault for the irrational price increase.

Justice Khwaja said the court was in possession of Nov 5 letter of the All Pakistan CNG Association (APCNG) suggesting that station owners were not obliged to maintain audited accounts on an annual basis in the absence of any statutory requirement because they were not limited companies.

“We request you (Ogra) to kindly allow us some reasonable cost of production enabling our members to run their stations,” the letter stated, adding that CNG station owners would try their best to provide them with the audited accounts but needed time since it required engaging auditors.

Chairman of the APCNG’s Supreme Council Ghayas Paracha pleaded that the association members were facing extreme losses because of a decline in the CNG price and alleged that government officials were misleading the court on the issue.

Petroleum Secretary Dr Waqar Masood informed the court that a special committee of the cabinet would meet in two weeks to settle the price issue once the audit of gas stations was completed.

The Federal Board of Revenue informed the court that 3,355 of the 3,395 stations paid Rs4.09 billion tax between 2009 and 2011.

Ogra submitted a reply stating that it had received 6,471 applications for CNG filling station licences between 2002 and 2011 and 6,152 licenses were issued. Similarly, 380 show-cause and 131 warning notices were issued and Rs1 million fine was imposed on them during the same period.

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usman hashmi

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