Sparks have continued to fly over the bulk procurement system, this time between the Petroleum Importation Coordinator (PIC) and Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) over the alleged illegal importation of unleaded petrol.
In a strong reaction to a notice published by TBS, the PIC last week said the written notice by the bureau was wrong and has not followed factual specifications indicated in the original TBS standards (TZS 672:2009), which the bureau had drawn up through a committee.
PIC chairman Mansoor Shanif told this paper in a telephone interview on Saturday that state matters are not dealt with via media adverts but through writing officially to those concerned for their responses.
“TBS should have written us PIC to get our response to the issues raised. But the way I see it, is as if it was not TBS which placed the adverts,” said Mansoor, who is also the Kwimba MP. He stressed that they were not wrong in importing the commodity.
“I think TBS has some problems. If they have changed the regulations, then they had better inform us to enable us make changes. We are working under procedures and we are within the law,” he stressed.
TBS said in an advert published at the weekend that blending of gasoline (petrol) with ethanol or alcohol is adulteration and thus illegal.
The standards watchdog said it has noted misuse and misinterpretation of the use of organic oxygenates in the Tanzania Standard for gasoline “TZS 672:2009, unleaded petrol (gasoline) for motor vehicles-specification) under sub clause 4.6.3”.
“Such misuse and misinterpretation of the national standard involves blending of gasoline with ethanol or alcohol. The practice is treated as adulteration, which is illegal and is not allowed in the country,” the advert placed in the papers reads in part.
Mansour could not believe that the bureau would communicate to PIC using paper adverts.
“We are using the same regulations and standards that have been approved by the Parliament and government and we are sure these same standards are those of 2009. If there is a new standard then it is the duty of the bureau to inform us,” he said, accusing some officials within the government system of trying to undermine the system.
He said it is the responsibility of PIC to import petroleum, but it is also the responsibility of TBS to ensure that the commodity meets the required standards before entering the local market.
“This is what we have always done. We import and TBS takes product samples before they tell us to allow the commodity to enter the market. They also have the duty to tell us if the product is substandard, so that our supplier can take back the defective cargo and bring in the right one,” Mansoor clarified.
He said PIC has already written to TBS to state clearly in writing its own set standards and to participate directly in the carrying out of procedures and contracts.
Mansour said PIC has the mandate to file a case against TBS in court, but it is waiting for the response from the former.
“We don’t want to tarnish the PIC image. Let them know, we are the only company importing petroleum in the country. Why should the bureau talk of oil importers?” he queried.
When called for comment, Energy and Minerals Parliamentary Committee chairman January Makamba admitted that there were serious misunderstandings between the oil dealers that are threatening the whole business.
“For this system to function properly, the dealers need to be in good terms. But the way it looks, there is an unending friction which is not healthy for the system,” Makamba, who is also the Bumbuli MP said. “Our major concern is that the imported fuel should meet the required standards,” he said.
But the committee chairman pointed out that there is need to amend the regulations guiding bulk oil procurement which shelter the regulators, some of whom are board members and have the mandate to decide on all matters including tenders.
For his part, Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Ewura) Director General Haruna Masebu, told The Guardian on the phone that they are working on the conflict, stressing that only the sample results from the government chemist will tell who is right.
“I was upcountry, I don’t know the development of the matter whether the samples have been released or not. I will work on it tomorrow,” he said.
According to him, the samples have been taken from wholesalers and retailers, buyers (PIC), suppliers and others from the Tipper godowns.
“We need to reach an unambiguous conclusion. Remember this issue is fragile,” said Masebu.
TBS Director General Charles Ekelege couldn't respond to phone calls from Saturday evening to yesterday.
He only responded later in a text message instructing this reporter to meet him in his office on today.