September 30, 2016

GEA accuses local tabloid of spreading lies

The Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) has dismissed reports in the tabloid-like Kaieteur Newspaper of alleged fuel smuggling involving officials of the Agency, which it said was seeking to malign the efforts of its “committed and diligent employees”.

The newspaper, over recent days, published a number of articles, which alleged that there was a high level of corruption at the entity responsible for overseeing the local petroleum sector.

In its most recent article published on Friday, February 26, 2016, the newspaper stated: “There is a massive corruption network in the fuel sector which is poorly managed at almost every level – from purchasing to distribution.”

The GEA refuted as quite unfortunate, the claims that the fuel sector was poorly managed and the Agency was part of a network that abetted fuel smugglers.

The Agency also highlighted that the successes of the fuel marking programme recorded from the time of its establishment to date also bore witness that the allegations were incorrect.

“If the programme is scrutinised, what will be revealed is that in 2004, there was significant smuggling of fuel into Guyana, with about one third of the fuel used in Guyana believed to have been smuggled. The fuel marking programme was established to combat this issue. The success of the programme can be seen from the statistics which show that from 2006 to 2015 the percentage of sites found with significant dilution in at least one tank has progressively decreased from 34 per cent in 2006 to three per cent in 2015,” the Agency stated.

Further, the Agency pointed out that it has always sought to strengthen its capacity to effectively combat the issue of fuel smuggling.

Cases of illegalities
The GEA dismissed as “grossly overstated and inaccurate,” a claim by the newspaper that there were at least two cases of illegalities involving fuel daily in Guyana.

Regarding claims that there was some fuel being imported legally which was not declared, as “everyone” was getting a kickback, the Agency called on anyone with evidence to come forward and present it to the relevant authorities.

It is noted that contrary to the claims by the publication, the fuel inspection unit of the GEA conducts regular monitoring on the Pomeroon, Essequibo and Demerara Rivers to curb fuel smuggling.

“In addition, such monitoring is done at the confluence of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers with the Essequibo River, and along the Berbice River. This strategy is done at times with the direct support of sister agencies on the Task Force on Fuel Smuggling and Contraband. Whenever vessels are encountered on the waterways of Guyana, the standard operating procedure for sampling and testing is applied,” the GEA stated.

The Agency added that locally registered vessels that ply routes within Guyana usually have marked fuel since they would have purchased their fuel stock from local, official sources, while locally registered vessels that ply international routes would purchase fuel from international sources and declare same through customs documents as ‘ship stores’.

Internationally registered vessels that come into any of Guyana’s ports of entry would also declare their fuel through customs documentation.

The ‘Venezuelan’ vessels that dock at Ruimveldt are moored in an area that is immediately bounded to the west by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard and to the east by the Guyana Police Force (Marine Division). Checks made on these vessels in the past have typically shown that fuel on board is in the driving tanks.

Drums on board usually contain fresh water or are empty with little indication of fuel being present. Examination of customs documents generally concurs with fuel present on board.   Notwithstanding, the inspection unit has continued to monitor this area and other wharves where international and national vessels are moored. Surveillance activities and other tactics continued to be employed in these areas to combat cases/potential cases of smuggled fuel.

The responsibility to track the movement of boats and their cargoes is that of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).  Boats entering Guyana should be declaring with the Customs boat house their cargo and fuel upon entry and departure.  Fuel for the vessel’s own propulsion is usually declared as ship stores to the GRA.  The vessel should check with the GRA on departure to declare said volumes on board to determine whether any was offloaded improperly.

According to the KN report, “the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) has been bringing in shipments of petroleum products, including diesel, weekly…What is wrong with the transactions is that the vessels have also, according to documents, been bringing in fuel for third parties. In essence, someone is jockeying and riding free on the vessel while taxpayers are footing the bill”.  Contrary to what KN has reported, the GEA is a regulatory body responsible for licensing the importation, distribution, marking and testing of fuel.  The GEA is not responsible for the freighting of fuel, rather, the oil companies and other importers are responsible for freighting their fuel.

As a regulatory body, the GEA is not directly involved in the negotiation of prices for fuel imports, but serves as a facilitator in the importation of products through the granting of requisite licences where proposed importers satisfy all statutory requirements. The body subsequently monitors downstream operations through the marking of imported products and licensing of sites to ensure legitimacy in the distribution of petroleum and petroleum products.

The GEA emphasises that its employees must carry out their duties with highest levels of integrity and professionalism, and where there is proven misconduct, action will be swift and condign.

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