The Managing Director of GOIL, Patrick Akorli, has said Oil Marketing Companies (OMC’s) are shutting down and laying off staff due to the activities of some individuals who smuggle petroleum products into the country.
The illegal importation of fuel, according to the National Petroleum Authority, leads to an annual loss of GHS850million due to tax evasion.
Reacting to the development on 505 on Class91.3FM on Wednesday 3 May, Mr Akorli said the practice was leading to loss of jobs in the industry.
“We don’t know the type of products being brought because they are not going through the normal inspection channels so people’s vehicles would be affected. And added to that, the OMCs are losing revenue. Some have actually closed down, workers are being sent home…” he bemoaned.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Petroleum Consumers-Ghana (COPECGH) has charged state authorities to take robust measures to sanction individuals involved in such illegal importation of fuel.
“We call on the government, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to ensure immediate arrest and prosecution of all players in this criminal activity without fail as these people have all clearly benefited in one way or the other from criminal proceeds that destroy both the country and the downstream,” COPECGH noted in a statement released on Wednesday, May 3, by its Executive Secretary, Duncan Amoah.
The chamber explained that these illegal operators load from depots mainly in Tema and Takoradi “where there is a heavy security presence and involvement of GRA officials together with National Security and the Bureau of National Security (BNI) officials”.
COPECGH bemoaned the practice where vessels dock at the main ports and along the coastline to discharge illegal products onto bulk road vehicles “in the full glare of security officials whose active connivance emboldens these illegal operators to carry out these activities without anyone being arrested”.
For the Chamber, the menace of supposed “export” products marked for neighbouring landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali which allows these illegal operators to pay about $0.46/litre instead of the market rate of $0.96/litre for same by the genuine players downstream can only be blamed squarely at the doorsteps of NPA”.
It also emphasised that the NPA was aware of the growing menace where these operators evade taxes “in the name of exporting the products but eventually sell in Ghana”.
COPECGH bemoaned how authorities had increased the number of export licences to these players over the past year without any proper audit of the activities of the “illegal players they keep licensing by the day”.
According to COPECGH, the issue which has been in the full knowledge of officials of state institutions tasked with monitoring and curbing such nefarious practices has now metamorphosed into a “full blown national crisis as illegal downstream operators are on record to have pocketed a colossal GHC850 million in the year 2016 alone”.
COPECGH has, therefore, proposed the following:
1. Immediate audit, investigation and open arrest and prosecution of ALL operators involved in this blatant evasion of taxes and subsequent dumping of untested products into our dumps and invariably into unsuspecting tanks of motorists.
2. Immediate dismissal or transfer and demotion of all security operatives who are paid to ensure such a creeping negative menace is checked and controlled.
3. Immediate halt of all petroleum ‘exports’ from the southern part of the country to the Bolga depot and escorting of same at the expense of the business people engaged in genuine exports.
4. Setting up of a national tracking centre primarily to wire, track, and audit all petroleum sales across the country.
5. Immediate resignation of the heads of Monitoring and Planning at the NPA for gross display of negligence to such heavy revenue losses over an entire year period which is still ongoing even today with likely losses for 2017 estimated to be even higher at around 1 billion when the government needs these revenues badly to carry out its development programmes.
6. Immediate dismissal or transfer of all (GRA) officials from the various depots for same neglect and in some cases active collusion to enable the illegal operators evade taxes as some of these export trucks are known to load sometimes twice in a day to destinations that will normally take three days or more to do a return journey from.
7. Immediate arrests of all National Security and BNI officials at the ports of Tema and Takoradi where vessels dock to discharge all manner of products into trucks and are allowed to leave the well-secured gates of these ports without any arrests of these operators who clearly pay their way through a supposed secure system.