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The Junior and Senior Staff Unions of Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST) are expressing worry about the government’s inability to support the state-owned oil company to stabilise petroleum prices in the country.
According to the executives of the two unions, it is only BOST that has the adequate infrastructure and human resource capacity to bring down the prices of petroleum and therefore, urged the government to pay attention to them and ignore the self-centered investors in the sector who have formed a cartel that has dominated the industry for years.
Prior to the Easter break the executives of the two unions, Mr. Abdul Jamil, Mr. Ekow Sey, Mr Mampaya, and Mr Newton Godfred Amoh spoke on several radio stations mainly in Accra and Kumasi where they cautioned the government against a cartel in the petroleum industry whose aim is to protect their selfish interest of making abnormal profit at the expense of the ordinary Ghanaian.
Important role of BOST
They further stated that the cartel has been in the system for long and could only be suppressed when the President, the Vice President, Chief of Staff and the Minister for Energy understand the important role that BOST could play to bring down petroleum prices in the interest of the economy and the ordinary consumer of petroleum products.
“It shoud be noted that although a large number of the population does not have cars to fill directly from the pump, however, they indirectly pay for the high petroleum prices when onboard a Taxi or Trotro. Therefore the government cannot leave such a sensitive national issue wholely in the hands of a few private men who have formed a cartel to deceive the state”, a joint statement released by the two unions in part read.
They pleaded with the public to disregard their political differences and support BOST to fight this cartel since they are the cause of the high petroleum prices.
“High petroleum prices affect everyone be it NPP, NDC, CPP among others. So, every Ghanaian must support BOST to bring it down to ease the pressure”, the two unions further noted.
They added “Government should know that in the deregulatory petroleum regime like ours, without any giant governmental agency playing a role; even if the government removes all taxes, the private sector which now controls the industry will replace it with profit in a smart way leaving the ordinary consumers in their vulnerable states, hence, reducing taxes is not the ultimate option”.
The Chairman of the Junior Staff Union, Mr Mampaya, commenting on the issue on Accra-based local radio station, Okay FM, stated that in most cases those in right positions to deal with the problems are given wrong advice.
He cautioned that “if the government jokes with our advice, this cartel whose members have made themselves kingmakers can worry them in the 2020 general elections because the ground is being prepared for that”.
He advised that if the government wants to dine with the cartel, it must be done fully by giving them all their needs otherwise they should ignore them completely.
“What is happening now is that BOST is crippled so petroleum market in the country has been taken over by the cartel. On the contrary, the government is preventing the same cartel from their illegal activities such as fuel damping, diversion of premix fuel, diversion of marine fuel, adulteration of fuel among other things. For this reason they are not happy and will therefore mislead the government by increasing fuel prices anyhow with the excuses that fuel prices have gone up on the international market. They were enjoying all the illegal activities previously and will only be happy when that opportunity is available to them. To avoid this agenda of the cartel, it is advisable to empower the state-owned BOST to compete with them so that their plans will be curtailed”, he stressed.
Influencing government officials
Mr Newton Godfred Amoh who is the secretary to the Local Union also said most of the members of the cartel are highly rich and could easily influence government officials to act unreasonably.
He said apart from Ghana there is nothing called BDCs anywhere in the world “but here the BDCs are controlling the affairs to the extent that in 2014 they took the entire nation into ransom”.
He further stated that when the cartel realised that BOST was planning to redeem Ghanaians from the burden of high petroleum prices, they quickly attacked the Managing Director with baseless and malicious accusations to halt the intended plans.
According to him, the cartel in the industry has a lot of incredible civil society groups as their members and they always hide behind such groups and sponsor them to throw dust into the eyes of Ghanaians.
On the part of Mr Ekoy Sey, Secretary of the Senior Staff Union, he expressed dissatisfaction about the Bank of Ghana (BoG) and the Ministry of Finance’s refusal to waive the single obligor limit on GCB to offer US$120 million line of credit to BOST for petroleum product importation.
Making life easier
He said laws are made to make life easier for Ghanaians but not the opposite and further pointed out that “today fuel price at the pump is about GH¢4.51 per litre on the average leading to GH¢20.30 per gallon but if this waiver is granted BOST could bring the price down to about GHS 4.00 per litre and GH¢ 18.00 per gallon which will be affordable to all and most importantly BOST will be able to maintain the same price for a very long time through the trading arrangement that exist between BOST, GO Energy and Goil.
In the view of Mr. Sey, if the situation is not immediately arrested, the price will go up again in the next window, thereby rendering the tax reduction granted by the government useless.
Confidence in BOST MD
Mr Abdul Jamil who is the Chairman of the Senior Staff union on his part lamented that President Akuffo-Addo should continue to repose confidence in the Managing Director of BOST, Mr Alfred Obeng Boateng because “the man is hard-working, innovative, competent and above all the most incorruptible Managing Director the company has had in recent years”.
“This is the man who has blocked most of the loopholes in the company and has attracted enemies to himself but has vowed to standby his plans to turn the company around in order to leave a mark irrespective of the subotage and the frustrations”, he noted.
He added “What amazes the staff is that he has brought unity to the company, assign everybody contrary to the previous administration where some people were on old salary scale whilst others enjoyed new salary scale. A few people who are agents of the cartel will soon be exposed and hope that the MD will sanction them accordingly. As we speak two staff suspected to leak fake information to outsiders have been interdicted and a five-member committee has been set up to investigate them and submit their report within two weeks. If found culpable I have no doubt that management will summarily, sack them”.
“We cannot sit down for a few people to destroy BOST which is strategically positioned to serve the nation just because of their selfish interest which is always placed above the national interest”Mr Jamil further stated.
Policies introduced by BOST MD
He enumerated some of the policies that the new Managing Director has brought to BOST which is causing all the hatred and dislike by the members of the cartel.
“The excellent decisions to save the company is the cause of the frequent attack on him [Mr. Obeng] since he assumed office in 2017”, he stressed, further noting that “In the past the members of the cartel could divert about 10 trucks each of 50000 litres of fuel and sell them into their pockets leaving BOST in debt. Today such practices are things of the past because of the measures put in place by Mr Obeng. He has reshuffled the loading terminal (APD) transmission team and many other things”.
Another disturbing canker that had been eliminated which is also causing anger among the members of the cartel, according to Mr. Jamil, is the policy that contaminated product can no longer be sold to BOST staff and any employee involved in causing it would face criminal trial.
“The result is that since Mr. Obeng assumed office, the fuel contamination that was very rampant in the past has ceased. No contamination has happened since 25th January 2017 to date”, he noted.
Jamil further noted that in the past, products were sent to Burkina Faso, Mali, Liberia and sometimes Nigeria without any financial instruments to secure it.
He said till date there is a huge debt “in our books against those foreign companies which cannot be traced. Perhaps it was one of the means that the members of the cartel were siphoning BOST money. The present Managing Director said we cannot continue to injure our own national company so bad like that, henceforth any export must be on cash and carry transaction basis”.
“It may interest you to know that some BDCs were given products without invoice meaning they were getting the products free of charge at the expense of BOST and some of them still feel bitter when the new management put measures to eliminate such fraudulent practices in the company”, he added.
The BDCs, Jamil stated, were storing their products in BOST system where some refused to pay for the storage fees.
“The incorruptible, competent current Managing Director’s bold decision to ensure that every BDC pays for Storage and Rack fee fully and for storage fees on monthly basis has also offended the members of the cartel”, Jamil further revealed, adding that ” the loopholes that Mr Obeng led administration has blocked are many and therefore he and his team deserve commendation and support from the media and the general public to enable him withstand the unnecessary attacks”.
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