Liberia: What’s in the Gasoline Report? FPA Hinted on Possible Cause of Acute Shortage

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MONROVIA – The Special Presidential Task Force Commissioned by President George Weah to investigate the unprecedented shortage of gasoline in Liberia presented its findings to the President last Friday.

The Task Force, headed by the Minister of State Without Portfolio, Trokon Kpui, was charged with the responsibility of probing what was determined to be a variance of 60 percent between importers’ inventory of products at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and actual stock at the storage facilities.

The report, which is yet to be made public, includes a detailed explanation of the LPRC petroleum storage and lifting schedules, while also describing what caused the shortage and which corrective measures should be taken to prevent a recurrence.

Sources within the LPRC familiar with the investigation on the variance that caused the shortage disclosed that the Liberia Refinery Company (LPRC) approached SRIMEX in 2017 seeking permission to store a certain quantity of gallons of gasoline in one of its diesel storage facilities.

SRIMEX, according to the source, informed the investigative team that the arrangement with the LPRC was intended to be short term, instead, LPRC kept the gasoline in their tank for over a year, thereby, incurring huge bills on storage with SRIMEX and causing massive evaporation.

It can be recalled that in late January, Minister of Commerce Prof. Wilson Tarpeh told FrontPageAfrica that “4.4 million gallons of gas is what the importers have on their inventory, but when the actual volume in the tanks was calibrated by LPRC that amount is substantially low, so, there was a big difference and the question is ‘what happened to the gas that was in the tanks?’ and that question is something that we have to answer at a later date.”

Of the 900,000 gallons of gasoline kept in Srimex Tank, LPRC lifted over 300,000 gallons constituting less than 35% percent of the entire product, yet the remaining product was in SRIMEX storage facility and continued to accrue charges on the storage.

Our LPRC sources confirms SRIMEX said it they decided to remove the product to mitigate the loses on the storage and replace it when LPRC requests for it.

In this light, according to SRIMEX response contained in a document submitted to the Taskforce, Srimex lifted a total of over 300,000 gallons while Kailondo also lifted almost 200,000 gallons of the product.

For the months the product stayed in Srimex’s Tank, LPRC incurred a huge loss of over 150,000 gallons evaporations.

To date, the LPRC, according to the Executive Mansion source, is yet to settle the storage charges owed SRIMEX for said gasoline.

It can be recalled that in late January, Minister of Commerce Prof. Wilson Tarpeh told FrontPageAfrica that “4.4 million gallons of gas is what the importers have on their inventory, but when the actual volume in the tanks was calibrated by LPRC that amount is substantially low, so, there was a big difference and the question is ‘what happened to the gas that was in the tanks?’ and that question is something that we have to answer at a later date.”

According to him, the 4.4 million gallons that reflected on the inventory could have supplied the country for 26 days.

All efforts to reach Mr. Musa Bility, the owner of Srimex proved futile as he couldn’t respond to our emails or text messages.

It is expected that the President will take action to ensure that those companies who owed LPRC product replace it at the soonest to avoid any such occurrence. Our sources also informed us that President Weah is expected to order an end to “Provisional Liftings” which many experts in the Industry say is the main reason for the recent shortage.

The gasoline shortage which lasted about a month was a national crisis and was quite devasting to the economy. Schools were forced to temporarily close, some businesses came at a standstill, there was a sudden hike in transportation fares thereby affecting the prices of other commodities.

The streets of Monrovia became unusually and vehicles queue from night till morning and from morning till night for gasoline.

The task force mandate covered the period between January 2017 and January 2020 and also include the following members: George D. Wolo, Ministry of Commerce; Peter D. Somah, Ministry of Commerce; Rufus G. Mahn, Liberia Revenue Authority; Augustine G. Chenoway, LRA; Dominic K.L. Hina, Ministry of Finance Development Planning.

The committee was tasked to give a detailed understanding of the LPRC petroleum storage process and determine importation dates, product quantity and lifting schedules with the view of ensuring corrective measures to prevent a recurrence of the present situation. 

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