Zvikomborero Parafini, H-Metro Reporter
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority has warned non-compliant dealers and all fuel outlets violating regulations set by the authority on the sale and distribution of fuel.
Speaking before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Energy and Power Development, the entity’s chief executive officer Eddington Mazambani said they are coming up with a bill to empower them to punish offenders within the industry.
This followed questions by the committee on whether ZERA has the capacity to regulate the industry, regulate the pricing and currency, and to monitor indiscipline in the market as some dealers are selling fuel acquired in RTGS in foreign currency.
“We visited 29 sites in Harare and Chitungwiza and their environs which were selling fuel in US and of the 29, 24 managed to show us the documentary proof that they had acquired their fuel in foreign currency which means they weren’t breaking any law, the other five, we have taken them up working with ZIMRA we are dealing with them using the laws available more to do with the importation of product without paying the requisite duty.
“From the outcry we expected that the suppliers were buying fuel in RTGS selling in foreign currency, but only five didn’t show us proof that it was acquired in foreign currency.
“No service station is approved to sell in foreign currency, traders are using a loophole in the laws, no outlet is licensed by ZERA to sell in foreign currency, the DFI regulations are still being worked on and once they are done, they will allow us to license service stations,” explained Mazambai.
The chairperson of the committee Joel Gabuza questioned whether in a layman’s language Mazambani implied that any service station can sell in foreign currency.
“The issue of foreign currency is up to the Reserve Bank, according to the pronouncement from the RBZ, anyone with free funds is free to import fuel and sell it in foreign currency, there’s no need for a licence,” he said.
Questioned whether it is sustainable and desirable for ZERA as a regulatory authority for the industry to operate haphazardly like that or there is need for a new law to fix that gap, Mazambani said:
“We are still engaging and we feel need to roll out the DFI regulations so that we can clearly demarcate the fuels that this one will be sold in foreign currency and this one in local currency,
“With regards to the capacity to regulate the sector, under normal circumstances the way we are structured, its sufficient for us to regulate the sector but in the environment that we are in now where there is acute shortage and a lot of illegalities and a lot of arbitrage happening in the sector, happening in the middle of the night, and we don’t have shift workers, we may be found wanting.
“That’s why we are at the moment, working with other arms of the government to augment our numbers to deal with issues happening at outlets, we are also developing regulations that will obligate operators of service stations to be held accountable such that when we hear these reports someone can lose their license.
“When we were set up it was during a civil environment where people behave normally, at the moment, we have problems that we hadn’t anticipated so we are revisiting our laws, there’s a bill that’s going to come before court to give us more teeth and we can have some prescriptive fines so that we don’t have to court like what happens when you transgress against ZIMRA.”
Mazambani also assured the committee that they would act on dealers who collect fuel from ports that never makes it to their service stations and is disposed of on the black market.