It is uncertain about what to do with Rs6.32 million raised from the distribution of consumer cards, as Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has not been able to implement the dual cylinder system for household and commercial users of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
NOC had distributed red cards for household users and blue cards for commercial users through gas sellers three years ago. It had charged Rs10 per card. A total of 632,000 cards were issued and the money raised is currently with the Federation of Gas Dealers’ Association (FGDA).
With the then Commerce Minister Lekh Raj Bhatta handing over the first card to then Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, the government started formal distribution of the cards on April 17, 2012.
However, both the NOC and the gas dealers concerned are not sure about what to do with the money, although the NOC spent some about in printing the cards.
NOC officials could face corruption charges if it fails to collect the amount from the gas dealers because public money is invested in printing the cards and the general public’s money has been held without serving the purpose, according to Madhav Timilsina, president of the Consumers’ Right Investigation Forum. “The NOC is answerable as the dealers were just a medium to collect the money,” he said.
The card system was expected to make the LPG distribution channel transparent and hassle-free, besides curbing rampant black-marketing and hoardings.
Stating the distribution job was handed over to the gas dealers, the NOC has been shrugging off the responsibility. On the other hand, the gas dealers and consumer rights activists are blaming NOC’s reluctance for the failure to enforce the card system.
NOC Spokesperson Mukunda Ghimire said the entire card distribution work had been assigned to FGDA. “The NOC’s job was just to certify the issued cards and it had nothing to do with to whom the federation issued the cards or what money they took from the consumers,” he said. “The NOC will initiate any legal process only if a complaint is filed at the District Administration Office over the misuse of the collected money.”
However, the FDGA said it was NOC’s sole responsibility to enforce the card system. “Implementation of the gas cards is important to regulate LPG supply. However, the NOC is not showing any interest after issuing the cards,” said the FDGA’s former president Gyaneshwor Aryal.
Chandra Thapa, general-secretary of the federation, said the NOC’s reluctance to endorse the working guideline led to the failure of the gas card plan.
During LPG shortages, the general people are those who suffer the most. However, many others with access to higher authorities and those able to bribe gas sellers hoard a large quantity of cooking gas. Thapa said the cards could help curb such market anomalies.
The government offers a subsidy of Rs17.33 per LPG cylinder. The cards were supposed to support the government’s plan to implement the dual-cylinder system which envisioned providing the subsidy only to households, while selling the cooking gas to commercial sector at the cost price. Former NOC chief Chandika Prasad Bhatta had planned to enforce the dual cylinder system from January 29. However, the plan could not take off with Bhattas’ ousting.