An internal investigation conducted by the Petroleum Corporation has revealed a long-running fraud at its Muturajawela fuel storage and distribution facility where a group of influential officials, with the help of a section of the workers, had pilfered massive stocks of fuel.
The revelation comes as the country struggles to cope with rising world oil prices which has caused several sharp upward fuel price revisions.
Petroleum and Petroleum Corporation Resources Development Minister A.H.M. Fowzie yesterday said that three senior officials at Muturajawela had been interdicted on the basis that they were responsible for what has been happening for a few years.
`They couldn`t have done this without the help of a section of the employee at the facility,` he acknowledged and said the losses had been ``enormous.``
`I ordered their interdiction following an internal investigation,` Fowzie said.
He said the fraud had not yet been brought to the notice of police. `We`ll have to inform the CID and let them handle the investigation,` he said.
The gang had damaged valuable state-of-the-art electronic equipment used to measure the amount of fuel moved out of the facility in order to cover their tracks.
Internal inquiries had also revealed the brazen manipulation of existing procedures to detect fraud and crippling almost the entire monitoring mechanism.
Petroleum Resources Minister Duminda Dissanayake (non-cabinet) said that CPC Chairman Asantha de Mel was handling the inquiry. `You better talk to him,` he said.
Fowzie stressed that he wouldn`t protect the guilty.
Well informed sources said that members of unions affiliated to the three major political parties may have been involved in the racket. Despite the recent detection, the unions hadn`t rushed to issue statements to the media as in the case of other issues.
Although on and off detections had been made of carriers robbing fuel, one of the interdicted officials identified as a former Deputy Operations Manager at the Sapugaskanda Terminal had secured their release.
The gang is believed to have cleverly manipulated data relating to the stocks of fuel pumped from ships directly to the Muturajawela oil tank farm over a period of time.
A senior official said that the guilty should be punished after an impartial investigation. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said, `Let there be no witch hunt. Charge them under the Public Property Act.`
Fowzie acknowledged that there had been allegations of corruption at Sapugaskanda and Kolonnawa installations.