17 January 2014, Abuja – Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board (PEF), Mrs. Sharon Kasali, Thursday disclosed that the agency was able to stop illegal payments of about N26 billion to unscrupulous petroleum marketers as bridging claims in 2013.
Kasali made this disclosure in a chat with journalists in Abuja, where she provided lucid details of the operations of PEF in the last one year as well as various challenges and allegations of dishonesty bothering on the agency’s management of its responsibilities within Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector.
While speaking on the agency’s deployment of proactive measures including its “project aquailla” technology to curb incidences of fraud in administering bridging claims to marketers, Kasali explained that the N26 billion saving was only possible with its deployment of the real-time electronic loading scheme, “project aquilla”, which scrutinised payments that were due to about 30,000 different petroleum marketers within its database as part of bridging claims for distribution of petroleum products across depots in the country within the period from January to December 2013.
She noted that project aquilla had from its inauguration in 2012 covered about 61 out of the 71 petroleum depots in the country, while 30,000 tanker trucks have been issued with tags to operate, adding that the measure with its initial challenges has been able to cut down the level of sleaze that hitherto characterised administration of bridging claims, while improving processes involved in such payments
“From January to December 2013, the reduction in payment was N26 billion; it was in June that we disengaged those people in the field that were found to be involved in sabotaging the process and from that period it was really impossible for them to do anything.
“In fact, you will really need the assistance of a staff of PEF that will knowingly cooperate with them to sabotage the process otherwise, the loophole was very short, probably between March and June and it wasn’t that much. So it was a tremendous amount of savings that we saw between January and December 2013,” Kasali said.
She also admitted that the online loading measure had encountered initial challenges that included rampant stealing of its Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags by unscrupulous marketers but that it has initiated further stringent measures to cut off possible instances of illegal payments of bridging claims to marketers.
Parts of the new measure, Kasali stated, include the phasing out of the former processes and devices with new processes and devices with improved security and monitoring features.
“We have concluded plans to disable all the former tags by June this year; new operation guidelines will be issued because there are people out there with our tags that have no trucks.
Now we are working with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to ensure that only registered trucks with the FRSC can actually be tagged,” she added.
By design, the aquailla mechanism within its computerised framework, processes claims of oil marketers with minimal human interventions, thus, reducing wanton sleaze, especially the government subsidy on public consumption of premium motor spirit (PMS).
Aquila as an automated e-business solution for dispatch and reception of petroleum products, also confirms the loading and delivery of petroleum products at depots, thus, enhancing transparency in administration of bridging claims.
– This Day