LPG operators to get services under one roof soon

Bangladesh’s liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) operators are likely to get one-stop service (OSS) in receiving different licenses from various agencies which will ultimately play a vital role in reducing their operational costs.

According to official sources, the Energy and Mineral Resources Division will initiate a move for introducing such OSS as part of ease of doing business ethics to promote and smoothen the growing business in the LPG sector.

"We will introduce the OSS like the one in the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) system to bring all the services under one umbrella,” said Anisur Rahman, senior secretary of the Energy and Mineral Resources Division.

He said this OSS will be introduced within six months. “If necessary, we’ll place the issue at the top level of the government.”

At present, the LPG operators have to take permission from various administrative and licensing bodies, including Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC).

In some cases, the operators have to move up to 21 offices from a district-level administration to ministry-level office, said Jakaria Jalal, head of marketing of Bashundhara LPG, a leading operator.

Industry insiders and consumers right groups said multiple regulators in the energy sector have made the services costlier for both the operators and the consumers, casting a big impact on the tariff, especially in the LPG and CNG businesses.

“Consumers have to bear the brunt of huge amounts paid in fees annually by the business operators,” said an energy expert.

President of LPG Operators of Bangladesh (LOAB) Azam J Chowdhury at a recent seminar said any bulk liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) business operator has to pay annually about Tk 13.5 million (1.35 crore) in total to 13 regulatory bodies to obtain licenses or to renew them for business.

The licensing bodies and the amount of their fees are Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) Tk 35,65,000, Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) (proposed) Tk 25,00,000, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Tk 40,000, Department of Environment (DoE) Tk 205,000, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) Tk 12,04,158, Department of Explosives Tk 116,000, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense (BFSCD) Tk 120,000, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Tk 25,00,000, and city corporation/local government body Tk 93,760.

The other bodies and their fees include Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishment (DIFE) Tk 320,000, Office of the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports (CCI and E) Tk 61,000, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) Tk 10,350 and Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC and F) Tk 27,60,000 (assuming an authorised capital Tk 3 billion or 300 crore).

During a public hearing recently held by the BERC, officials of large six private LPG companies also raised the issues and demanded a single regulatory authority to monitor their business and introduction of a one-stop service at the prime regulator's office.

Hasin Pervez, a leader of the Bangladesh CNG Filling Stations and Conversion Workshop Owners Association, brought a similar allegation saying that they have to pay fees to 22 bodies to take licenses for LPG and CNG business.

"The most bothersome part in this case is that there’s no serial to maintain in seeking licenses or permission from among the bodies like deputy commissioner (DC) office, BPC, or any other authority," he said.

Once anybody applies to the DC office, its officials ask the applicant to take licenses from other agencies first and then apply, he added.

Hasin Pervez noted that when applications are filed to other authorities, they direct to bring the DC Office's permission first and then apply to them.

Echoing the allegation, Prof Shamsul Alam, an adviser to the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said the consumer rights body will also prefer a single regulator in the energy sector.

"We're of the same opinion that multiple regulatory bodies only create complications in business and enhance costs which cast an impact on the energy tariff, and finally consumers have to pay the price," he said.

Backing their views, former member of the BERC Mizanur Rahman said there should be a single and prime regulatory authority with one stop service facilities that will coordinate with other government agencies.

He said the BERC has already simplified some of the processes in applying for a license for energy business by reducing the number of required obligatory documents.

"But still there’s a scope for doing much more to further ease doing business in the energy sector," he told UNB.

He also suggested fixing the fees rationally so that it does not affect the consumers.

BERC Member (Gas) Maqbul-E-Elahi Chowdhury said they have already prepared a draft to reduce the annual license fees for different businesses in the energy sector.

Source: United News of Bangladesh