CPC blunders… Again!

Friday, 3 August 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The suspicion of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) releasing substandard oil to fellow State enterprises resulting in over 100 buses and several trains stalling has grabbed headlines in the past few days, prompting people to wonder whether there will ever be any end to the issues in connection to the CPC.

Just days after losing an appeal in a London court ruling, which ordered it to pay nearly $ 162 million plus interest for non-payment of dues to Standard Chartered Bank linked to hedging deals, the CPC is out and about blundering as usual. In this instance the Minister has responded with appointing a committee to investigate the claims and readers will recall this is a standard “go to” procedure, through which no officials are ever punished for wrongdoing.

In the previous instance thousands of vehicles were damaged when the CPC distributed substandard oil. Despite Government steps to provide compensation, many claims were underpaid or not made at all given the inefficient system that was put in place. In this instance public transport has been hampered, not only causing inconvenience but also wasting public funds – a fact that does not seem to bother the CPC or the State at all.

To add insult to injury, the CPC is also fighting another battle on a different front with UAE-based Fujairah Petroleum Company. The blatant lack of transparency of this deal has raised new questions over the governance of CPC and why repeated transgressions have been allowed with little or no redress.

It was reported that the Government agency stands to lose at least Rs. 1 billion from the deal, which industry sources allege is irregular and violated tender norms. Last week officials from highly-suspect Mocoh, a Swiss-based oil distribution, logistics and trading company acting on behalf of the UAE supplier, arrived for talks with CPC.

What makes this situation even more open for corruption is that the Chief Operating Officer was among individuals and companies in South Africa alleged to have received kickbacks under the UN’s Oil-for-Food programme in Iraq under the former Saddam Hussein regime. Subsequently a South African commission was asked to report on these alleged payments. The full report is yet to be released, according to South African media reports.

According to South African news reports, the UN investigation found that on at least two occasions, the Iraqis paid COO Michael Hacking illegal kickbacks amounting to $ 94,000 and $ 480,000 for his role in the Oil-for-Food programme.

The problem hinges on the obscurity of the new firm and few people understanding under what precedent the CPC is “rectifying” the deal. Given that the CPC has a long track record for corruption as well as staggering losses that are undermining the passing of global price reductions to the consumer, the matter needs in-depth attention from stakeholders.

Despite being a vital public institution, the CPC is identified with the proverbial “den of thieves” and it is unlikely that the situation will become better as the Government continues to turn a blind eye and refuses to address repeated debacles of massive corruption.