By: Christian Conteh
The Presidential Taskforce that was charged with the responsibility of investigating the cause of what the authorities describe as ‘a painful nationwide gasoline shortage’ during the week of 31st October 2021 has uncovered fraud, massive procedural errors, dereliction of duty, recklessness and lack of transparency at GAM Petroleum fuel depot.
The Taskforce which was chaired by Trade & Employment Minister, Honourable Seedy Keita included members from State Intelligence Service (SIS); the Permanent Secretaries of Trade and Ministry of Petroleum (MOPE); 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).
The task force has after intense and comprehensive investigations presented its preliminary report to President Barrow on Wednesday 9th January 2022 at a session attended by the Vice President, a cross-section of Cabinet and members of the Security Services.
“Contrary to the reports and figures presented by Gam Petroleum (GP), The Taskforce found massive coverups and blatant disregard for established procedures,” the statement from the Presidential Taskforce signed by The Gambia Government Spokesperson Ebrima G Sankareh
Adding that, “significantly, the Taskforce found four out of the five gasoline tanks at the 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 stock of petrol as of 1st November 2021 was 910 metric tonnes and that of JET Fuel was 4,209 metric tonnes.”
The Taskforce went further to reveal that 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 tonnes of petrol and 20,245 metric tonnes 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. The investigations revealed that the Management of Gam Petroleum illegally allowed some OMCs to take fuel without proper authorization.
Moreover, the Taskforce 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.
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 Taskforce 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 restructuring of Gam Petroleum should include the constitution of a new Board of Directors, immediate appointment of an interim management, rustication of the current management with subsequent legal processing for wrongdoings, formation of an Audit Committee, implementation of appropriate modern software for stock management and prosecution of all persons and entities directly and indirectly responsible for the stock theft and national gasoline shortage. Lost stock must be legally recovered.
Crucially, The Presidential Taskforce 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.
Further, the National Audit Office (NAO) should 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 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.
Accordingly, H.E. 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.