Gov’t urged to tackle persistent fuel theft

Like previous years, the 2012 Auditor General’s Report on Region 4 revealed that fuel and lubricant were supplied to unauthorised users and one parliamentarian has urged government to tackle the persistent problem head-on as the police are not doing much.

The matter was raised during a meeting of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Commit-tee (PAC) yesterday. The 2012 AG report on Region 4 said that almost $2 million worth of fuel and lubricant were supplied to 16 vehicles not owned by the region.

This finding occurred one year after it was highlighted in the 2011 audit report that hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and lubricants were utilised by vehicles which were not registered to the region. When this matter was brought to the attention of the PAC in 2013, PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira had declared that there “clearly” was fraud involved in the process and the committee as a whole slammed the region and its officials for their failure to investigate the situation.

Three years later, the $733,076 in fuel and lubricants uplifted in 2011 for three vehicles that were not owned by the region is still the subject of a police investigation and the matter of a further $1.663 million in fuel and lubricants supplied to unknown persons in 2012 has also been referred to the police.

However, rather than attacking the regional authorities, the current PAC is calling for a more active approach in dealing with the matter.

APNU+AFC Member of Parliament Charandass Persaud said it appears to be an ongoing issue that needs direct and persistent intervention. “It has happened before and it is continuing.  Right now in Region 6 we have 100 gallons of fuel and nobody knows where it came from. It is not a Region 4 problem; it is across the board. It needs to be addressed. It is not going to be a matter that the police will look into unless somebody is behind them with a stick,” he proclaimed.

According to Persaud, for the amount of money lost, the government can afford to employ someone for a full year to be behind the police so that someone is prosecuted. “The money itself is lost but let’s get somebody before the courts for it,” he advised.

Asked by Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence, who is a former PAC chair, what measures she had put in place to prevent a similar occurrence, Regional Executive Officer (REO) Pauline Lucas explained that new authorising measures had been implemented.

Lucas, who took up the post in 2015, explained that at present, any vehicle uplifting fuel must present an authorising document signed by either her in the position of REO or in her absence, the deputy REO.

She further noted that these requisitions can only been submitted by programne heads; each vehicle has been provided with a log book and GuyOil has been provided with a list of authorised vehicles.

In 2011, then REO Deolall Rooplall had explained to the PAC that vehicles were able to uplift fuel with an authorising document containing the signatures of two of its executive members.

According to Rooplall, while it was found that on each occasion that fuel was illegally uplifted, the signatures of these individuals had been produced, the officers identified as Ashford Amikar and Deoram Ramdas had denied having signed the approvals for the fuel and maintained that their signatures were likely forged.

The issue had been reported to the police in June 2011. However, though they were supplied with the alleged forged signatures, as well as samples of the men’s verified signatures for comparison, the police have not reported any headway in the matter.

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