By Adama Tine
A task force formed by President Adama Barrow to investigate last October’s fuel shortage has found massive cover-ups and blatant disregard for established procedures.
The task force was chaired by Trade & Employment Minister, Seedy Keita with membership from the State Intelligence Service (SIS); permanent secretaries of the ministries of Trade and Petroleum, the Director General of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), managing directors of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) and the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).
Ebrima G Sankareh, spokesman for the Government said in a statement that: “After intense and comprehensive investigations, the task force presented its preliminary report to President Barrow on Wednesday 9th January, 2021 at a session attended by the Vice President, a cross section of cabinet and members of the security services.”
He added that contrary to reports and figures presented by Gam Petroleum (GP), the task force found massive cover-ups and blatant disregard for established procedures.
“Significantly, the task force found out that four out of the five gasoline tanks at Gam Petroleum Depot in Mandinary were totally empty. The fifth tank, in fact, contained only 50,000 litres consisting of a mixture of gas oil and water.”
The statement adds that the stock of petrol as of 1st November, 2021 was 910 metric tones and that of JET Fuel was 4,209 metric tones. Stocks entrusted to the National Depot by International Traders (Addax, Trafigura and PSTV) and local Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) were equally missing.
“The total volume of products missing was 10,753 metric tones of petrol and 20,245 metric tones of gas oil with a cumulative value of approximately USD20, 968,100.
“The taskforce found that the missing stocks were issued without any legitimate authorization and the value of the unaccounted stock at pump price (including duties and taxes) was USD31, 265,972. The projected tax and duties throughput attached to these stock values is approximately USD10,297,872, which needed to be ascertained if paid or not,” he further said.
The investigations revealed that the management of Gam Petroleum illegally allowed some OMCs to take fuel without proper authorization.
“The task force also discovered weak oversight of the depot operations and poor compliance with the regulatory framework of the Petroleum Products Act of 2016. Equally, the Board of Gam Petroleum (GP) was weak and lax in checking management’s blatant excesses,” the release said.
It went on to add that in a crass disregard for supervisory instructions, the management of Gam Petroleum provided fraudulent, dodgy and terribly misleading information and was equally not forthcoming with reliable facts during the review by the Presidential Taskforce.
Consequently, the release said the task force recommends that PURA’s management strengthens its regulatory oversight functions over GP and ensure that the National Strategic Reserve Mechanism as stipulated in Section 25 of the Petroleum Products Act, 2016, be fully enforced.
“In addition to PURA, the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Weights and Measures Department of the Trade Ministry should deploy staff at the Depot until the situation is adequately normalized,” the statement said.