Dirty petrol supplier’s stocks continue to be distributed

Probe on whether former ministry secretary misled Cabinet: Minister
By Bandula Sirimanne

Contaminated fuel stocks that ruined more than 5,000 vehicles were only part of a major three-month long consignment that will be brought to Colombo until the end of this month, and will continue to be distributed to vehicle users, ongoing investigations have revealed.

A probe on whether these controversial stocks were imported after the Petroleum Ministry’s then Secretary, Titus Jayawardena, allegedly misled the Cabinet is now under way, Minister Susil Premajayantha told the Sunday Times. He declined to elaborate.

A three-month order for 240,000 metric tonnes of fuel has been placed with the Singapore branch of the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC). Besides the contaminated 15,000 metric tonnes, Mr. Premajayantha said, “nearly 75 per cent has been received”. He claimed that other shipments “conform to standard specifications” of the CPC and sample tests had been carried out.

Allegations of misleading the Cabinet, the Sunday Times learnt, arise from listing the fuel requirement for three months in metric tonnes. However, the cost has been given only in “per barrel” terms – technicalities which most unsuspecting Cabinet Ministers were not aware of.

It has come to light that the three-month contract was for a total of 240,000 metric tonnes. This is while the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation’s average requirement for a month is 160,000 metric tonnes or 480,000 metric tonnes for three-months. What remained unanswered was from where the CPC hoped to obtain the balance 240,000 metric tonnes.

The urgency for refined fuel imports had arisen in view of the closure of the Sapugaskanda refinery for maintenance and repairs. It has also come to light that the CPC had requested the Lanka-India Oil Company (LIOC) to supply 15,000 metric tonnes of petrol as an emergency requirement giving just six days for delivery to Colombo.

“The time given was insufficient and we informed the CPC of this position,” LIOC Managing Director Suresh Kumar told the Sunday Times. Years earlier, the LIOC had obliged when a similar request was made by the CPC. However, sufficient time had been given to the company on that occasion.

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