2009-09-12 08:13:00 Ewura: 70 per cent of petrol stations unsafe Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Ewura) director general Haruna Masebu addresses senior journalists during a briefing in Dar es Salaam yesterday. By Citizen Reporter More than 70 per cent of all the 900 petrol stations countrywide are engaging in illicit operations that endanger the safety of their customers, Ewura director-general Haruna Masebu said yesterday. A countrywide survey conducted by the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Ewura), Mr Masebu said, had found those stations to be operating below the prescribed standards. This, he warned, put the safety of motorists at jeopardy, as the authorities found it difficult to effectively monitor the operations of the fuel stations, some of which do not even have valid business licences. Under the Energy Act, he added, all the operators had been given a one-year's grace period, until March next year, to make the necessary amendments and fully comply with the new regulations. Addressing editors from various media houses in Dar es Salaam, Mr Masebu said the old system of licensing fuel dealers was largely to blame for the current mess. He said that as a result, Ewura could not guarantee the quality of the products sold at most of the petrol stations around the country. Before the enactment of the new law, which became operational on April 1, this year, the Ewura boss added, it was municipal, district and city councils that licensed the operators of fuel stations. "As a result there was a proliferation of fuel stations, as the authorities had no proper guidelines for the operators to follow," he said. The problem is so widespread that if the new law, which provides for specifications of fuel stations, was to be fully effected, many of the current fuel stations could have closed up shop. Mr Masebu said:"That is why the new law allowed a one-year grace period. The law says that the status quo should be maintained during that time." They opted for that measure to ensure that services at the stations and trade in fuel were not interrupted, to the detriment of the consumers. However, he said, Ewura had already started operating in accordance with the requirements of the new law to set standards for fuel stations. The Ewura director for petroleum, Mr Sirili Massay, said they had asked the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) to come up with standards for fuel stations. "The work is progressing well. The latest information we have indicates that they (TBS) are in the final stages of compiling the standards." For its part, Mr Massay added, Ewura had prepared guidelines under which fuel stations would be licensed under the new law. "ut this doesn't that we have just been idle and left substandard stations to continue operating without being monitored. We have licensed about 40 per cent of the stations, which have already fulfilled the new conditions," he said. Meanwhile, Ewura has said that the problem of fuel adulteration, which costs the economy and motorists dearly, with the suspect fuel damaging their vehicles, could be easily controlled if the government eliminates the big tax difference on diesel and kerosene. Mr Masebu said many fuel dealers were tempted to mix diesel with kerosene because the latter attracts less tax."The difference in taxes between diesel and kerosene is about Sh490,"he said. The government has deliberately set the kerosene tax lower in an effort to give relief to the majority lower and middle class people, on the assumption that it is their major source of energy. "But this might be a wrong perception, as it is not true that many people depend on kerosene as their major source of energy," Mr Masebu said. At one time, he added, the per capita consumption of kerosene was higher than what was perceived to be the size of population of the lower and middle class citizens. He said that was need, therefore, to promote gas as the "poor people's fuel", as some countries had done, and where the results were encouraging. Fuel adulteration's impact on the economy was immense, hence the need to consider reviewing the taxation policy on diesel and kerosene, the Ewura boss proposed. He announced that Ewura had recruited seven inspectors who had managed to reduce the problem of fuel adulteration from 71 per cent to 25 per cent, though some dishonest businessmen were still tempted by the higher margin to cheat. "Tanzania is among only a few countries, which levy different taxes on diesel and kerosene. Others made the taxes uniform and the fuel adulteration problem became history," he said.