Home » Industry » Zera Should Fully Police Fuel Sector

Motorists are generally not that fussy where they buy fuel: but what they want is a quality product meeting laid down standards.

With several prosecutions in progress or pending it is apparent that they are not always getting this. Charges have been made that some service stations are diluting diesel with paraffin, a cheaper fuel because of lower taxes and so able to boost the profits of a dealer who cares nothing about quality, customers or the law.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority has the responsibility to ensure that standards are set and followed for all fuels and fuel blends. Some of the criticism of ZERA is overdone. It is fairly clear that the authority does check the imports arriving at Msasa and that it has been taking samples from service stations, the results of which have led to prosecutions.

It is now commissioning a mobile laboratory, which should speed up testing.

The new laboratory is just an enhancement since adequate policing of the fuel sector can be done by someone driving around collecting samples in bottles and taking them to a laboratory.

This is obviously how the problem has been identified in the first place and evidence for prosecutions gathered.

It is also clear that ZERA needs an attitude of trusting no one in the business and checking everyone. But the fact that they are catching those who cheat suggests that the authority is doing its job.

What is more worrying is that there are Zimbabwean business people who want to cheat their customers.

The fuel sector was a very cosy and tightly-guarded business run by five companies for many years. During the 2000s the Government, quite correctly, threw the sector open and since then we have seen dramatic changes, many of them for the better, as new people entered the business and new companies were formed.

To a very large degree, the whole sector has been successfully indigenised through competition and efficient business practices rather than through the law.

The cheaters are not just damaging themselves but are also damaging the honest business people who have succeeded through hard work and concentrating on satisfying their customers.

Car dealers are now talking about “using only reputable companies”, by which we assume they mean the major companies with their own service stations. This makes it harder for the new dealer to become established and makes every “little man” a suspect. This is wrong.

So we would like ZERA to go further than just testing fuel. We think that the authority could publish the results of the tests.

Let us know which service stations have perfect records and drivers will use them, regardless of who owns them.

The new man can build his reputation quickly by getting on this list. And we can know who has flunked a test.

Even ZERA is worried about giving results of the failures until they are prosecuted, the fact that they are missing from a list will help people find a “reputable” dealer, who could easily be a new entrant determined to make a mark by providing first-class service and selling high-quality products.

Source : The Herald