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The National Petroleum Authority (NPA) has disclosed that Ghana loses about 850 million cedis annually in taxes, due to the increased activities of fuel smugglers into and out of the country.

The illegal act is said to involve operators who ply their business at the ports by fuelling tanks with fuel products brought into the country via unapproved routes.

The second category of the illicit trade is carried out by businesses who apply under the pretext of exporting petroleum products but end up selling them within Ghana, thereby evading some taxes.

The Chief Executive of the NPA, Hassan Tampuli confirmed the worrying development to Citi Business News after a visit to the Tema port led by Deputy Finance Minister, Kweku Kwarteng on Thursday.

“We estimate that about 250,000 metric tonnes of losses in terms of petroleum products get to this country and that is estimated to cost the country 850,000,000 cedis,” he said.

Mr. Tampuli added, “NPA considers this as a great concern and we have engaged all stakeholders involving the security agencies and the Ministry of Finance.” According to the NPA boss, the vessels believed to be perpetrating the act berth at the Harbour under the guise of dislodging sludge (which is dirty oil) but actually discharge diesel or petrol to directly into fuel tankers parked at shore.

The industry regulator is also alarmed over concerns that some of these products could be coming from pirated sources. To commence the clampdown, the NPA has directed that, “No vessel be allowed to discharge petroleum products at the Tema port, main harbor, fishing harbor or dry dock.”

Commenting on businesses flouting the provisions guiding the export of petroleum products to neighbouring Burkina Faso or Mali, Mr. Tampuli asserted that the relative cheaper prices quoted by the miscreants distort the market as their prices make genuinely sanctioned ones expensive for the consumer.

As a result, the NPA, together with the Finance Ministry have reiterated the enforcement of the new tax exemption rules to curb the abuse of the current provisions.

Accra, April 26, GNA – Scores of Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) on Wednesday called on the National Security to tighten the noose around Petroleum Black Market dealers whose infiltration into the sector posed a great risk to the national economy.

Mr Henry Akwaboah, Managing Director of Engen Ghana Limited told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that, the growing Petroleum Black Market trade could disrupt the national economy, if not properly checked.

He said the total national petroleum consumption for 2015 was 4,341,519,247 volumes of litres. Based on developmental trend for 2016, which was also an election year and therefore forecasted to stimulate vitality on the economic front the general projection for petroleum consumption was pegged at 3 per cent increment over the 2015 figures.

He said based on 2015 volumes of sales, projected estimates volumes of sales of petroleum products for 2016 should have hit 4,471,764,824 litres but sadly the consumption for 2016 dropped significantly to only 4,051,101,969 volumes of litres.

In effect, over 420,662,855 volumes of litres was not sold through official channels; “this strategically was due to the activities of Petroleum Black Market dealers with active support of some unscrupulous security operatives.

“Ghana lost huge sums of money in terms of tax revenue as per official petroleum tax - Special Petroleum Tax GH¢132 million was lost to the nation; Energy Debt Recovery Levy about GH¢123 million; and the Road Fund levy about GH¢120 million”.

Mr Akwaboah said in spite of the drop in volumes of litres sold through mainstream channels, export volumes grew by 400 per cent; he added that products loaded as exports strangely through the black market dealers ended up being sold in the country.

He explained that the Government of Ghana removed all taxes on petroleum products meant for exports to the main trading land lock countries; “the petroleum black market dealers’ mode of operating is to register and load tanker trucks for export.

Mr Akwaboah suggested that all petroleum products for both local and export market should attract the same tax, but the caveat should compel all exporters to provide evidence of export of the product for a refund.

On the security front, the Engen MD suggested a multi-stakeholder approach to make petroleum black market dealing a high economic crime, “we should raise the risk associated with dealing in the dark.

“Security must scale-up its monitoring role and adopt other undisclosed manoeuvring tactics to outwit the bad elements within, especially those at the borders who aid petroleum black market dealers”.

He also suggested that fuel tanker trucks transporting petroleum products to the land lock countries must be fixed with a tracking device to ensure that the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) monitors its operations from the point of loading to the point of discharging.

Meanwhile, the Association of Oil Marketing Companies (AOMCs) has reiterated an operation to combat Petroleum Black Market dealers to save the country from continuous loss of tax revenue.

The AOMCs combat against Petroleum Black Market dealers also aimed at protecting OMCs, whose volumes of fuel sales has taken a dose dive, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Duah AOMCs Industry Coordinator told the GNA in an interview in Accra.

He said the AOMCs combat against Petroleum Black Market dealers would involve multi-stakeholder operations to make illegal petroleum activities a high-risk adventure in the country.

Mr Agyemang-Duah said the operation would also unmasked all those personalities including politicians, security operators, few OMCs, and any other entity who are supporting and benefiting from the illegal trade at the expense of the state and genuine OMCs.

“For strategic security reasons, the date for the operation would not be announced, as we speak now, operatives are on the ground especially in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Brong Ahafo and Ashanti Regions gathering data on these unscrupulous nation wreckers.

“We caution all security personnel who have been compromised by these Petroleum Black Market dealers to watch-out as very, very soon they will be exposed to face the full power of the laws.

“’s very ironic that security operatives paid from the tax-money generated, to protect the nation, would stoop so low to collaborate with fraudsters to cheat the nation,” Mr Agyemang-Duah noted.

Scores of OMCs told the GNA of their intentions to join the illegal trade if the situation persist; “we are losing millions of Cedis, we cannot sell our products, it’s locked up in the underground tanks yet we pay taxes.

“We are confronted with huge operational cost; the banks are also chasing us for payment of loans contracted. If you cannot beat them join them, we are contemplating on all these options,” an operator told GNA.

The OMCs therefore pledged their full support to the Association and Government for the effort to combat against Petroleum Black Market dealers.

GNA investigations also indicates that the AOMCs, the National Petroleum Authority, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Energy, National Security and other stakeholders are discussing the issues to map-up holistic strategy to support the combat against Petroleum Black Market dealers.

By Francis Ameyibor, GNA

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