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Utility service management needs a change


BANGLADESH, otherwise a resource-starved country, is rather lucky to have gas reserve both in its on and off shore areas. There are varying estimates about gas reserves. However, everyone is aware of the fact that the country's economic woes would have been more without natural gas that is now meeting a substantial part of its energy needs. But, in the gas sector, as in other areas of the economy, pilferage and wastage are galore when many industrial units, power plants and filling stations are running below their capacity because of the inadequate supply of gas. The people living in rural areas and also in some urban centres do not have access to piped gas, which is cheaper than kerosene and fuel woods.
The systems loss in power and gas sectors in other countries generally refers to loss due to technical reasons. Here it is synonymous with pilferage. A section of unscrupulous consumers as well as employees of the service-providing agencies in areas of power, gas and water are involved in the mischief. The pilferage of power, gas and water is being carried out by both legal and illegal subscribers in connivance with the dishonest officials and employees of the departments concerned. Stories about meter readers, linemen and revenue officials of the utility-service providers becoming fabulously rich, thus, have been hitting news headlines frequently.
In addition to pilferage of gas through unauthorised connections and tampering with meters, the non-payment of bills against consumption of gas by a section of domestic, commercial and industrial users is yet another serious problem that the gas distribution companies have been facing for a long period. The distribution companies such as Titas or Bakhrabad have to buy gas from the producers, both local and foreign. The care-free attitude of these distribution companies about realising arrear gas bills over the years has rather emboldened the unscrupulous subscribers of gas. The revenue and field level officials have formed an unholy nexus to reap personal benefit out of unauthorised connections or non-payment of gas bills. However, of late, the Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd., has strengthened its drive against unauthorised gas connections and gas bill defaulters. While carrying out their jobs, the Titas teams, reportedly, are facing obstacles from powerful people living in posh and restricted areas.
Some subscribers have developed a bad habit of withholding payments of all sorts of bills against the services provided by the state-owned agencies. But the same people are found to be prompt enough to make payments to private sector service providers. Here, the fault lies primarily with the public sector entities. The private sector operators being efficient would stop providing service to a client or subscriber immediately, if he or she would have failed to pay his or her bill in time. But the situation is found to be entirely different in case of public sector agencies. It takes even months for the officials concerned of a state-owned agency to collect information on bill payment status. The delay is very often done deliberately to prepare a ground for making a few extra bucks by the officials and employees concerned. It is high time that the government should find out an alternative to the inefficient management of the utility services. This is necessary for the government itself and the scrupulous subscribers. If an organisation is headed and manned by honest people, it is unlikely that powerful and influential people can stop it from doing what is right.