TITAS Gas Transmission and Distribution Company has sought to extend the installation of two lakh prepaid gas meters by two more years as the three-year project expired on December 18, 2018. Until that time, 74,284 out of the two lakh prepaid meters were installed in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Bashundhara, Badda, Tejgaon, Cantonment, Kafrul, Mirpur, Khilkhet, Uttara and adjacent areas of Dhaka. An agreement was signed with UK-based consultancy firm Pegasus International on October 7, 2015 and the firm began consultancy work on October 19, 2015. On March 16, 2017, Titas signed another agreement with Japan-based Toyokeiki Company Ltd and the company began installing meters on customer’s premises on September 17, 2017. Titas officials said that site survey was carried out for 94,754 domestic customers till December 31, 2018. As the project was yet to be completed, a proposal for extension until 2020 was sent to the government for approval.
One could understand that Titas Gas Company’s target to install 2,00,000 prepaid meters in Dhaka city was unlikely to be achieved within the time frame of December 2018 because of leakage in service lines and faulty connections. Officials said that Titas teams had to leave consumer’s houses keeping a large number of meters uninstalled because of such problems. Moreover, inadequate human resources of the contractor appointed by Titas has made the project more critical, delaying the implementation. A Titas Gas prepaid meter project official said that as the meters were very sensitive, they would not work if there was any leakage in either the service line or household connection. The company, therefore, had no other options but to suspend the installation of the meters at faulty connections although the National Economic Council approved the project, involving Tk 712 crore, setting out the completion by December 2018. What is deplorable is that when the contractor Toyokeiki Company was asked to increase its human resources, it was reluctant to do so. It also made the situation critical causing further delay in the work. Besides, there are allegations that local sub-contractors of the project are taking additional money from consumers if any leak is found in their gas connections during the installation. All that has happened so far certainly raises questions about the sincerity of the state-owned Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company in this regard.
As main features of the prepayment system-based gas utility services include an easy payment of gas bills, access to information through smart card, improved customer service covering uninterrupted gas supply and conservation of natural gas, Titas Gas Company needs to work out a time-befitting plan to implement the project in no time.
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