Following newspaper reports this week regarding the probe by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) into filling stations selling watered down diesel, the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA), representing the interest of numerous petroleum retailers in South Africa and a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says it supports any measures to curb non-compliance.
Lebo Ramolahloane, Vice Chairman of SAPRA, says compliance is absolutely key to prevent these practices from continuing and commends the work of DMRE to identify these non-compliant operators. “Fuel adulteration is definitely not a new problem however and one of the reasons SAPRA, together with other key stakeholders in the sector initially set up a Petroleum Compliance Forum in 2019. Its intention was to bring back some level of reform to the petroleum malpractices underway, which inadvertently erode compliant business margins, taxes to the fiscus and impacts the integrity of consumer vehicles to perform optimally on South African Roads.”
In 2018, SAPRA itself also launched a Whistleblower hotline and this has been extremely successful in reporting illicit trade and transport, and has led to fines, penalties and suspensions. “The awareness created has made movement by illicit operators significantly harder. We have made a lot of good progress but this is an area which needs ongoing and urgent attention as evidenced by the recent probe,” he says.
Ramaolahloane says these unscrupulous operators know that the situation is very difficult to monitor and both the DMRE and SARS simply do not have enough inspectors on the ground. “From a retail perspective it is also very difficult to monitor as the mixing happens at depot level before it reaches our retail filling stations.” He did however confirm that SAPRA members adhere to a very strict code of conduct and in the event there is a problem, motorists can immediately visit the SAPRA website and report any suspicions on their whistleblower hotline. “We will not hesitate to investigate and if found guilty take immediate action against that member in addition to any of the other punitive clauses imposed against them by statutory bodies.
“Unsuspecting consumers are losing money from engine damage while the economy is losing billions in lost revenue.”
Ramaolahloane confirmed SAPRA would continue to do everything it could to support any efforts by the DMRE and other stakeholders to prevent the sale of contaminated fuel to unsuspecting customers. “We are pleased to see many of the well-established filling station franchises have been cleared of any wrongdoing and 70 stations are under invesigation. While efforts continue to stamp out the practice, he cautions consumers to be extremely wary of buying cheap diesel,” he concludes.