By Omar Bah
A government multi-sector taskforce has recommended immediate legal action against individuals found culpable in the Gam-Petroleum fuel saga. The taskforce which comprises PURA, Gam-Petroleum board, ministries of trade, petroleum, and security services was instituted by the president in the wake of fuel shortage in the country in November last year.
The Gambia government in a statement said President Adama Barrow strongly assures Gambians and partners of his Government’s unwavering commitment to rooting out corruption and ensuring that fair and transparent business practices are upheld with equal opportunities for all in the country. This followed the presentation of a preliminary report of the findings of the Task Force to President Barrow early this month.
Following the statement, The Standard tried and was fortunate to come across more details of the preliminary findings of the Task Force, including many highlighted by the government’s statement.
According to the recommendations of the Task Force, “The current management that has been interdicted by the Board should be processed through the appropriate legal means in order to recover the unexplained stock issued immediately.” The taskforce also recommended legal proceedings against all the Oil Marketing Companies that have recognised negative stocks to recover the full value of the stock received but doesn’t belong to them.
The Task Force further recommended for the National Audit Office (NAO) do a snap audit to ascertain the position of GP at the time of take over from Euro Africa Group.
“A forensic audit should be carried out by an independent firm to determine the full extent of the losses including any taxes that may be due to the state,” the taskforce said.
The taskforce also found that all the four out of the five Gasoil tanks of Gam Petroleum were empty. “The fifth tank, in fact, contained only 50, 000 liters consisting of a mixture of gasoil and water. The stocks of petrol as of 1st November 2021 was 910 metric tons and that of JET Fuel was 4, 209 metric tonnes. The international traders who have stocks with Gam Petroleum reported that that their total stock balances with Gam Petroleum were 9, 643.54 MT of petrol, 16, 534.69MT of gasoil, 3, 444.99MT of JET fuel and 17, 793.15MT of heavy fuel,” the report added. The taskforce recommended for Gam-Petroleum to settle the value of the stock of the international traders as agreed with all the three traders to ensure that they do not claim insurance. The taskforce said engagement with these international Traders (Addax, Trafigura and PSTV) and local oil Marketing Companies and the reconciliation of the information received from there found that their stocks were missing at the Depot. “The total volume of products missing was 10, 753 metric tons of petrol and 20, 245 metric tons of gasoil with total cumulative value of approximately $20, 968, 100 value at platt price. “
“If they are made to claim insurance the insurance premium for petroleum products will be too high for the country and it will literally put the country on a black list,” the taskforce said.
It said the missing stocks were issued without any authorization and the value of these unaccounted stocks at pump price (including duties, taxes throughout etc) is $31, 265, 972.
“The projected tax duties attached to these stock values is approximately $10, 298, 872, which need to be ascertained if paid or not. The oversight of the Depot operations was found to be weak and the legal framework as embodied in the Petroleum Products Act was not implemented by PURA,” the taskforce added.
The shareholding of Gam Petroleum consists of SSHFC (45.3%), Gambia Ports Authority, GPA (14%), GNPC (12.90%), and Star Oil (24.8%).
The task force observed that the board members “were not in touch with the operational realities of the company and there was no oversight role that the Board provided to the management especially on the stock levels”.
According to findings, the GP Management was “not transparent as they provided misleading information and were not forthcoming with information during the review”.
“The management of Gam Petroleum was allowing some OMCs to take fuel without the proper authorization and this caused the stock-out as a number of OMCs were given stock of traders which does not belong to the depot but is only held on a custodian basis.”
The fuel stock reports submitted by the Depot management, according to the taskforce, proved to be false and there was no independent review of the stock level.
The taskforce further recommends that the current practice of elevating the Second Layer of Management to oversee the operations of Gam Petroleum and the Depot be immediately halted as it is inconsistent with standards of best practice and a recipe for unabated malpractice and or corporate fraud.
It also recommends for the NAO to review the audit reports by PKF to ascertain the position of GP at the time of the takeover from Euro Africa Group. “This NAO exercise should be followed by a forensic audit of Gam Petroleum by an independent firm to determine the full extent of the losses including any taxes that may be due to the State.”