Tuesday, 4 March 2014
PPPRA Does Not Authenticate Documents Of Fuel Importers Before Processing Their Subsidy Claims, Its Official Tell Lagos Court
More facts emerged in court today as to how subsidy fraud suspects succeed in receiving subsidy claims with forged documents, as official witnesses of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) told a Lagos High Court that their relationship with oil marketers is based on “trust.”
Victor Zamani and Tope Ogundola of the PPPRA, who testified before Justice Okunnu at the trial of Rowaye Jubril, the Executive Director of Brila Energy Limited at the High Court in Ikeja, disclosed this while explaining the agency’s process of qualifying fuel marketers for claims from the government's petroleum support fund.
The witnesses described their routine of looking through all relevant documents submitted by fuel importers after discharging imported products to daughter vessels which, in turn, distribute to local retailers.
Mr. Zamani, who acts as Assistant General Manager at the Lagos Zonal Office of the PPPRA, disclosed that every mother vessel importing fuel for daughter vessels carries up to 60,000 metric tonnes of the fuel product and discharges for the daughter vessels at various tank farms in the country.
He said the business of the PPPRA at their level was only to receive photocopies of the required documents for processing subsidy claims to satisfy that the marketers have fulfilled all quality, quantity, insurance and other relevant requirements to qualify for the subsidy fund.
While confirming the testimony of the first witness Mr. Ogundola said his job was to receive photocopies of all relevant documents, among which are the certificates of marine insurance; certificate of quality; certificate of product quantity; ship-to-ship transfer documents; and relevant bank documents.
He said that the PPPRA has a checklist of 38 items it uses, after which it receives and keeps copies of the documents from the marketers. The witness also said there is a 'checker' person whose job is only to check whether the kinds of documents submitted by the marketers correspond with those required. After completing the documents checking cycle from the agencies and institutions – without verifying whether they are genuine or forged - the PPPRA's officials said they keep two photocopies and send copies to their head office in Abuja to process Petroleum Support Fund payment for the marketers. According to him, no effort is made to authenticate the documents submitted throughout their document-checking procedures.
"We do everything with the marketers on the basis of trust," said Mr. Ogundola. To a cross-examiner, he said that since the PPPRA does not operate on 24 hours basis, it was not possible for officials to determine whether fuel marketers take the products back from the daughter vessels to which they have discharged fuel after they have inspected the transfer of contents from mother to daughter vessels. He said, however, that such a practice would be an aberration in the profession, and that they trust marketers not to engage in such a practice.
Observers said that today’s testimonies by the two PPPRA officials suggest a poor documents verification procedure which makes adequate room for any marketer to present forged documents and then claim subsidy funds without really qualifying to be paid.
Mr. Okunnu adjourned trial of Mr. Jubril to the 11th, 12th and 19th of March 2013.