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Govt to deal with corrupt fuel retailers

by Staff Reporter
15 Mar 2020 at 08:50hrs | Views
GOVERNMENT has activated high-level systems to deal with corrupt fuel retailers engineering artificial shortages, with strict surveillance and penalties crafted to clean up the  sector.

Chair of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet (Sacu), Mr Tabani Mpofu, told The Sunday Mail that a full-swing investigation was underway as Government was demanding reconciliations of petrol and diesel collected from the National Oil Infrastructure Company (NOIC) versus consumer purchases.

The Sunday Mail recently exposed fuel cheats who have caused shortages for several months.

Authorities realise the need for a lasting solution to the fuel shortages to ease the burden on industry and the general populace.

Thus, a high-stakes inter-agency meeting was held on Friday afternoon in Harare. It was attended by a team from the Office of the President and Cabinet, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) and  Sacu.

Another such meeting was held a fortnight ago as the fight against fuel saboteurs intensifies.

Mr Mpofu warned that those fished out by the current investigation will face criminal charges in court.

"We want the dealers to submit fuel usage figures. We are looking at charging those who are found wanting," he said.

NOIC chair Engineer McKenzie Ncube, who attended the high-level meeting on Friday, said the quickest way of arresting the malpractice was to introduce stiff penalties against those caught on the wrong side of the law. The penalties, he said, were discussed at the inter-agency meeting and would be announced soon.

Government is also set to introduce electronic fuel monitoring devices that will be rolled out by Zera at service stations and on fuel delivery trucks.

Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi yesterday said the fuel regulator was working on the project which is bankrolled by Government to the tune of US$300 000.

He referred further questions about the rollout of the monitoring device to Zera acting chief executive officer Engineer Eddington Mazambani, whose mobile phone went unanswered several times.

The system, which is being incubated by the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), is expected to eliminate hoarding of fuel by retailers.

When fully functional, all haulage trucks transporting fuel will be fitted with trackers and volume-measurement technology to enable geo-fencing and monitoring of the vehicles' movements.

According to fuel disbursement figures obtained from NOIC, retailers are accessing petrol and diesel which at times is higher than the daily consumption of five million litres per day.

This has thus prompted an extensive probe into the shady dealings in the lucrative fuel sector.

There has been concern over the distribution of fuel in the past month as drawdowns remain significantly higher yet supplies on the market are erratic.

A snap survey by this publication at most service stations last week showed that long fuel queues are still a constant feature.

Eng Ncube said Government was concerned about the artificial shortage of the precious liquid given the high drawdowns.

Latest figures from NOIC show that in the past week, dealers accessed 35,7 million litres and in some instances such as on March 7 2020, retailers got 6,2 million litres of petrol and diesel — which is 1,2 million higher than the daily demand of five million litres.

Fuel has been constantly flowing from NOIC to dealers with figures showing that on March 3 2020, retailers received 4,1 million litres while the following day they got four million litres and another 4,5 million litres of petrol and diesel on March 5 2020.

On March 6, NOIC released 4,8 million litres and a further 6,2 million litres on March 7 2020. More fuel was disbursed from March 8 to 11 with an average of four million litres per day.

"The fuel situation is slowly improving although indications are that the problem we have lies at the dealership end. Loadings from NOIC to dealers tell us that there shouldn't be any long queues. This shows that fuel is being diverted to the black market, thereby shortchanging customers in the process," said Eng Ncube.

"To solve this problem we have resolved to come up with stiff penalties to deal with those who are diverting fuel and sabotaging the economy. That's corruption and it must be dealt with decisively."

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Ms Rosemary Siyachitema could not comment yesterday saying she was busy.

"I am sorry I cannot comment now," she said, curtly.

The continued fuel shortages are puzzling given that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has earmarked US$120 million this month to import around 200 million litres of fuel for the general local currency market, with US$18,5 million letters of credit confirmed for immediate drawdowns.

The figures are about 20 percent higher than the normally required US$100 million a month to solve the shortages.

Source - Sunday Mail