The Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) business, which involves sale of cooking gas, has in the recent past been marred by malpractices, where some retailers deliberately do not observe standard measurements while others have a habit of using cylinders owned by other operators.
As more Rwandans ditch charcoal and opting for gas as the energy source for cooking, there have been growing complaints that some gas dealers tend to refill gas cylinders half way, which has prompted the intervention of sector regulator, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA).
Speaking to The New Times Gérard Rusine, the Director of Gas and Downstream Petroleum regulations at RURA, said that the regulator is "aware of this bad habit" among dealers and is investigating to get to the bottom of this.
"That (cheating clients) is not the only major challenge in the LPG business; there are some operators who do illegal refilling of cylinders. For example, you find that a cylinder owned by SP is being refilled by another gas supplier and this is unacceptable because it might be dangerous," Rusine said.
Rusine said that RURA passed a revised regulation for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) which seeks to address some of the challenges and streamline clean cooking solution in the country.
"We are investigating and very much concerned about these issues. Retailers and wholesalers of LGP, who are found guilty of any of the offences indicated in the new regulations will pay heavily."
Under the revised RURA regulations, penalties vary but they include a hefty financial implication or even one losing their trading licence.
For instance, refilling of an LPG cylinder belonging to another operator without their authorisation will attract a fine of Rwf10 million.
Refilling of LPG cylinder with the net quantity of LPG contained in the cylinder being less than the net content marked on the cylinder will also result into an administrative fine of Rwf10 million.
"We urge members of the public to report to the regulator once they suspect any of these issues. Every filling station must have standard measurements to help buyers identify if their cylinders are full," Rusine added.
Ghyslain Shyaka, the Supervisor at SP Nyarutarama Station, told The New Times that the new RURA regulations were long overdue.
"See, we receive cylinders from other gas distributors (pointing at an isolated cylinder labeled Kigali Gas) for refilling; maybe because clients know that our prices are similar all over the country but we cannot refill them because it contradicts the laws and we respect that. Some clients do it unknowingly but it is our responsibility to inform them because once RURA finds out that you have refilled a cylinder that belongs to another company we would be penalised," Shyaka said.
Liban Mugabo, the chief executive officer of Safe Gas, also welcomed the move to regulate the gas business saying his business had suffered a "painful" experience due to irregularities involved.
According to Mugabo, his company incurs a loss of about Rwf 400 million from illegal refilling on an annual basis and said that they were among the first to petition the regulator to rein in the errant dealers.
"Over 60 per cent of the cylinders we sold out in three years never returned to us for refilling. It is evident that other dealers would refill our cylinders, which is unacceptable. My business is not cylinders. My business is gas and most of our cylinders were being refilled by other suppliers. We are happy with the new LPG regulations because ours was a painful experience.
"We hope enforcement will be strict. The regulation is timely. Next should be regulating prices on the market," Mugabo said.
Mugabo says that as the LPG business continue to grow in Rwanda, it is imperative that the regulator "puts in place all the mechanisms to make it fair."
"LGP consumption is doubling, on average, every quarter at least depending on our clientele; not only for small cylinders but also those who buy in bulk. That is why the regulator needs to be strict as early as possible to ensure safety of the consumer and distributor," he added.
Safe Gas alone--which entered the Rwandan market mid 2015--has 199 distribution points in Kigali, according to Mugabo.
Despite the growing uptake of LPG across the country, penetration is still low.
RURA has established that there's insufficient awareness among the population on the benefit of LPG as a clean-burning, sustainable, efficient fuel and a vital source of energy for cooking purposes, hence the low penetration.
The new regulations seek to increase LPG awareness through licensed operators to the potential users, according to the regulator.
However, imports for gas shot up, especially in the last two years when the Government started campaigns promoting cooking gas use.
The amount of LPG imported doubled from 5,020,595 kilogrammes in 2016 to 10,278,617 kilogrammes in 2017 owing to what RURA officials described as government campaigns to encourage usage of the gas.