Thursday, 29 June 2017

BOST Contaminated Fuel Sale Scandal: The Protection Of The Interests Of Vehicle Owners Is Vital

As a consumer protection issue, the alleged sale of contaminated fuel to unregistered entities by the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST), is a very serious and  alarming matter.

Indeed, that is the real issue at the very heart of  what is a major scandal - that ought not to be swept under the carpet under any circumstances. At all costs the system in our country must protect vehicle owners in Ghana from being sold contaminated fuel.

That is a basic function of the industry's relatively well-resourced regulator, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA).

It is therefore vital that both the opposition National Democratic  Congress (NDC), and the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), ensure that the grave matter of the sale of as much as over 5 million litres of contaminated fuel by the state-owned BOST, is not turned into political football by party propagandists.

For the sake of the real victims of this apparently crooked deal by greedy businesspeople and dishonest public officials - vehicle owners across the nation - this scandal  ought to be seen by our political class as an opportunity to tweak and reimagine Ghana's fuel value-chain to rid the sector of corruption and enable the system to  better protect vehicle owners in Ghana from being sold contaminated fuel at the forecourts of petrol filling stations across our homeland Ghana.

For years, some of us have written to warn against the dangers of the disgraceful trade in the importation for sale in Ghana of sub-standard and contaminated  fuel - all to no avail because parts of hard-of-hearing officialdom obviously benefit from that abominable business.

Clearly, aside from possible investigations by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, and, perhaps,  the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), to ensure that this matter is not swept under the carpet,  there ought to be a public enquiry by the relevant parliamentary committee, as well as an open and independent enquiry into the matter led by a well-respected retired senior judge. Justice Emile Short comes readily to mind.

The object of all the public enquiries, ought to be to provide recommendations that will ensure that the nationwide system of fuel distribution supervised by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), has fail-safe mechanisms in place to ensure that under no circumstances can  contaminated fuel possibly end up in the underground tanks of petrol filling stations, for sale to vehicle owners in Ghana.

The NDC's parliamentary caucus definitely deserves praise for taking up the matter. As does the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP). Answers are needed to  all the questions they have both posed in this matter - and ought to be forthcoming from the industry's  regulator, the  NPA, above all.

On its part, the regime of President Akufo-Addo needs to adopt the attitude that all public-sector appointees of the president have a moral obligation to  ensure that the entities they head are underpinned by an ethical ethos, at all material times, during their tenures in office - and that they themselves must set the example by their personal conduct whiles in office.

That way, no one in either the government or the NPP, will feel the need to shield errant appointees  of the president, who engage in acts of corruption.

Finally, this blog is of the humble view that in getting to the bottom of this egregious scandal, it is vital that the system  ensures that  the interests of vehicle owners in Ghana are placed at the heart of any resolution of the issues raised by the sale of contaminated fuel by BOST.

For the benefit of this blog's many readers we have copied the NDC's press statement on the matter  below for their perusal and understanding of the issues involved in this outrageous scandal - if all the allegations against BOST, are true, that is.

Shorn of its obvious political-advantage-seeking undertones, for national interest reasons, this blog  agrees with all the corporate good governance enhancing sentiments underpinning the statement issued by the Minority in Parliament, for, at the end of the day, they are seeking to protect vehicle owners and the public purse - which after all  is their constitutional duty.

Please read on:

"MINORITY IN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR FULL SCALE INVESTIGATION INTO BLATANT CORRUPTION AT BOST LTD.

The minority in Parliament has noted with grave concern the sale of contaminated fuel product to the tune of five million litres to a company known as Movenpiina by the MD of the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Limited under very dubious and bizarre circumstances in another clear example of escalating corruption in the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia Government.

Even more disturbing is the explanation offered by BOST to justify the sale of this contaminated product as well as the circumstances surrounding the sale which clearly lacks transparency and integrity.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, it must be mentioned that under proper regulatory and supervisory protocols, under no circumstance should the BOST Co. Ltd experience such high levels of contamination as we are witnessing.

The question to ask is what led to the contamination of these products in the first instance. Why was the particular tank in question not properly discharged and cleaned before the intake of the fresh fuel which led to the contamination? Was it due to negligence, lack of supervision or a deliberate plot by some self-seeking individuals to enrich themselves at the expense of the state and the Ghanaian tax payer?

The justification by BOST that the contaminated products were sold for use by manufacturing companies is untenable. The norm and practice is that when such contaminations occur, corrective treatment of these products are undertaken by the Tema Oil Refinery through blending. Why did BOST not arrange with TOR for the treatment of this particular fuel? Available information indicates that BOST failed to exhaust all means to ensure TOR blends this contaminated fuel. The argument by BOST that the blending couldn’t be done at TOR because the CDU is down is most untenable.

These so-called off-spec products are not the slops that are usually sold by BOST, we also wish to state that SLOPS are usually in small quantities. SLOPS are sediments of fuels in a Tank and are usually in small quantities and cannot be compared with 5 million liters of contaminated fuel.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, the claim by BOST that this contaminated product was sold at a competitive ex-depot price is false and cannot be justified.

When was the competitive bidding process initiated and who were the companies that participated? Incontrovertible evidence available confirms that Movenpiina Company was the only company BOST dealt with in the sale of this contaminated product in a sole sourced transaction. It is therefore erroneous to suggest that the sale was done under a competitive process.

Further information available to us indicates that Movenpiina Co. Lt. put in a proposal to purchase the fuel on the 19th of May 2017. Interestingly, checks from the Registrar Generals Department suggest the company was incorporated to trade and transport fuel on the 29th of May 2017. This clearly suggest collusion on the part of the actors. Information available before us indicates the Managing Director took a decision to grant to Movenpiina Co. an Open-Credit sales arrangement against all the advice from his own staff. This means that the company bought the products without paying for it and in turn sold the products to a third-party Company Zupoil at 30% higher. This smacks of high level corruption.

We further wish to know what culminated in the interdiction of General Manager of Terminals, Mr. Fred Adarkwa and the Trading Department Manager Mr. Nana Obeng all of BOST. Was it because they strongly kicked against the clandestine process of selling these products. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have received information that these contaminated fuels which were originally meant for industrial usage by the steel, garment, petrol chemical as claimed by BOST by companies to run their machinery and certainly not for the running of vehicle engines has ended up in the open market against the NPA’s directive not to do so. The resultant effect will mean damage to vehicle engines and its accompanying side effects to the innocent Ghanaian consumer. Furthermore, our checks reveal that the contact number on Movenpiina is the same number of the BOST MD’s private office in Airport Residential Area.

The Gentleman who registered the Company, one Nana Poku Agyemang a generator dealer with a Company General Power is a close associate of the MD and they have been doing business together before the MD was appointed to BOST.

The Minority has also noted with trepidation the revelation that the said Movenpiina Company is currently a Bulk Oil Transporter at BOST carrying huge petroleum products across the Country when they are not registered. This is not only illegal, it is also extremely risky because when those products are lost, it will be at the cost of the tax payer as there’s no insurance covering the said contract.

The Minority will want to place on record that further checks reveal that, BOST has never sold any contaminated products before. They always blend the products to correct it to meet industry specifications as outlined by NPA and Ghana Standard Authority. What BOST has sold in the past is slop and not contaminated products. As we speak BOST imported a full cargo declared by NPA as off Spec. The Company that brought in the product is called Morco Energy. That product is currently being blended at TOR to correct it. We wonder why the 5million litres didn’t go through the same process to correct it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the blatant corruption by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government cannot be allowed to continue.

We demand the following:

1) The immediate interdiction of the BOST MD – Mr. Alfred Obeng Boateng

2) Full scale investigation by the regulatory authorities

3) The immediate withdrawal of the contaminated product from the market to protect consumers and assurances that this will not recur.

4) That the financial loss estimated at GHS 14.25 million be retrieved by surcharging the offending officials at BOST in line with the recent Supreme Court decision. We thank you for your attention."

End of the public statement issued by the Minority in Parliament at their press conference addressing the matter of the BOST contaminated fuel sale  scandal.

   
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