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Petroleum Dealers Association president Robin Naraynsingh

The Petroleum Dealers Association (PDA) is seeking answers from the National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited (NP) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on how the company used some $481 million in grants allocated by the Government for upgrading gas stations throughout the country.

The PDA in a letter signed by its secretary, Fabia Saleema Sattar sought clarity about the millions of dollars supposedly allocated to NP between 2016 to 2018.

The FOI request dated August 30, 2021, asked which service stations were upgraded and which sites received environmental remediation for the period 2016 to 2018.

The PDA’s letter to NP stated that for the period 2016 to 2018, NP received Government grants totalling $480,721,000 for the repair and upgrade of service stations nationwide.

NP’s legal team, however, replied to the PDA’s request for information for the three years on October 7, 2021, saying that no service station sites received upgrades or environmental remediation funded by government grants during those periods.

In an interview with the Sunday Guardian, Public Relations Officer of the PDA Derek Joseph said under the FOIA they wrote to NP on the issue of the grant because “We have not seen any proof of the upgrades that they took. Maybe we missed it or we were not sure where the gas stations were upgraded, so we wanted an explanation.”

The PDA said service stations are in a “dilapidated state” and with the large sum of money given to NP all they want to know is how the money was spent.

NP responds

While the PDA in their letter stated that in 2016, 2017, 2018 government grants were issued, NP in a statement to the Sunday Guardian said that the figures provided by the PDA and stated in the FOI request are not correct and actually relate to 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

“NP received no funds as Government Grants for expenditure incurred for the upgrade of the Service Station Network and Environmental Remediation, for each of the financial years covered by the Consolidated Financial Statements referred to in the FOIA request dated 30th August 2021 from the PDA,” the company stated.

NP explained that government grants for expenditure incurred in the upgrade of the Service Station Network and Environmental Remediation was part of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP), the last of which was received in 2013.

NP also said that the figures stated in the PDA’s FOI request–government grants of $164,651,000, $160,353,000 and $155,717,000–were the annual carried forward balances on PSIP funding which were received in the years when the upgrade of the service stations was in progress, the last being in 2013.

“Therefore, the balances shown are brought forward balances from this previous year as opposed to any receipt of funds in each of the financial years covered by the Consolidated Financial Statements referred to in the FOIA request dated the 30th August 2021 from the PDA.”

NP also said no PSIP funding was received in any of the financial years covered by the Consolidated Financial Statements referred to in the FOI request.

“Any Service Station upgrades or Environmental Remediation works done in the financial years covered by the Consolidated Financial Statements referred to in the FOIA request dated August 30, 2021, from the PDA, were internally funded. It is therefore impossible for NP to supply any information and/or documents in respect of any of the three items identified in the PDA’s FOIA request dated 30th August 2021,” the company stated.

“NP received no further funding from the Government, therefore the carrying

forward of balances for Government Grants is an accounting treatment under IAS

20. Government Grants relating to property, plant and equipment are included in

non-current liabilities as deferred government grants and are credited to the

statement of comprehensive income on a straight line basis over the expected lives

of the related assets.”

In response to Sunday Guardian’s question on whether NP has plans to upgrade their service stations, the company said, “NP, in its discretion and based on its financial capability shall continue to upgrade service stations as deemed necessary.”

PDA and NP’S exchanges

*On August 30, 2021, the PDA under the FOIA requested information from NP on which service stations were upgraded and which sites received environmental remediation for this period, and the exact breakdown of the monies spent.

*The PDA’s letter referred to Consolidated Financial Statements ending March 2018, where NP allegedly received $155,717,000 for expenditure incurred in the upgrade of the service station net

work and environmental remediation.

*The PDA also referred to the period March 31, 2017, where NP allegedly received government grants of $160,353.00 for expenditure incurred in the upgrade of the service station network and environmental remediation.

*The letter also referred to the period 2016 where NP allegedly received government grants of $164,651.00 for expenditure incurred in the upgrade of the service station network and environmental remediation.

*In a letter to the PDA, dated October 7, 2021, NP’s lawyers said no information exists which can be provided in responses to this item of the FOI request because during the period covered by the Consolidated Financial Statements as no service stations were upgraded and no service station sites received environmental remediation which was funded by Government grants.

‘They are not accountable to the country’

Responding to NP’s statement, PDA’s President Robin Naraynsingh said that the numbers that the PDA quoted are a part of their published financial statements.

“So are their published accounts misleading? I think they are confusing the issue. They should come clean and say how these figures are arrived at.”

The PDA accused NP of not being accountable to the country.

“They are bullies, they are bullying their way through things. They are not accountable. They have no respect for the stakeholders in the industry. They are arrogant,” Joseph said.

Joseph said that in NP’s response to the PDA’s original letter, the company claimed that they had no information about that matter.

“We don’t know if they are shielding the truth. When our board meets with respect to the response from NP we will decide the way forward.”

Naraynsingh said many NP service stations are in a “dilapidated state” and given the large amount of money allocated, they want to know how the money was spent.

“They got all this money, where can the country see something that is tangible so that the community has a better service?”

“There are more questions that are due to be answered and we will take it to our legal team. Our attorneys told us that NP was advised not to meet with the PDA. As a result, the only way of communicating with them is through legal means, through the FOIA, and through this, we must get answers in writing within 30 days.”

He accused NP of being late in their responses to the PDA and said this reflects the “scant courtesy” NP has for their association.

The PDA will meet to determine their next step and if they will file for a judicial review with respect to the FOI request.

Joseph also renewed calls for NP Chairman Sahid Hosein to resign over the controversy that erupted after reports that there was an intention by the state company to increase the cost of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and to allow retailers to set their own prices.

In an article in Guardian Media last week, Hosein said the board’s intention was simply to supply more of the country with cooking gas.

Joseph accused Hosein of continuing to “mislead” the country.

“He continues to throw the blame on the dealers for the price increase. NP made the decision. Based on that alone the chairman of the Board should resign. NP has always been operating against the interest of not only the dealers but the public at large. We are calling for his resignation because the buck must stop somewhere.”

Joseph said given the culture of lack of accountability in the country, he does not expect Hosein and the Board to resign.