Liberia: 27,000 Gallons of Gas 'Stolen' Between 2012-2014

A petrol pump (file photo).

Amidst the ongoing gasoline crisis faced by the Country, the Daily Observer has learnt that while there have been operational loses of high volume over a period of 14 years at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), culminating into "bulk stock verification", there was also an incident of theft.

The investigation showed that 27,000 gallons of gasoline were stolen from Tank (TX# 408) on June 20, 2012, on the grounds of the LPRC, which was masterminded by Mr. Mohammed Darblah, the former Operations Manager and who is currently serving as Petroleum Consultant at the LPRC.

In an interview with Mr. Aaron J. Wheagar, who served, at the time, as Deputy Managing Director for Operations yesterday via mobile phone, he admitted the "theft of 27,000 gallons of gasoline" from the LPRC racks, which led him to constitute and authorize an investigative committee.

"Yes, when I was Deputy Managing Director for Operations, there was some investigation of theft and the theft occurred on the rack," he said.

He failed to state the recommendations made against the accused, Mr. Mohammed Darblah. However, Mr. Mohammed Darblah was suspended for a period of four months. Though the 27,000 gallons of gasoline stolen was never restituted.

When asked, the accused, Mr. Darblah, also via mobile phone he said: "It is not to his knowledge," and hung up the phone.

Documents of this theft speak to the contrary.

Following the acute shortage of gasoline in the country, over the past two weeks, the LPRC has been hit by grave allegations of long-standing theft of gasoline and operational losses of high volume.

There have been several calls from both the opposition and ruling establishment to launch an intensive investigation into the situation between theft and actual operational loses.

In a communication (memo) in the possession of this newspaper, the then Deputy Managing Director for Operations at LPRC, Aaron J. Wheagar, constituted and authorized a five-man specialized investigation team to probe the "bulk stock verification" covering the period from 2010 - 2014.

The five-man specialized investigative committee was chaired by Mr. Bobby G. Brown and the members were Joseph B. Dennis, Charles Sherman, Leelar Dymacole ad Albert Tarpeh.

The job of the committee was spelt out in consonance with the communication from the then LPRC DMD for Operations: "In 2010, a committee headed by Sarlee Sartee, II, then Maintenance Manager, reported the difference between the book stock and the bulk stock in our shore tanks. In 2012, Universal Surveyor Incorporated also confirmed that there is a disparity between the actual stock in the tanks and the importer's stock balances. And On April 17, 2014, Compliance also came up with a report that showed a huge difference between bulk stock and the importer's stock balances."

Wheagar, furthered: "Considering the above reports, I request that you reconcile the importers' balances and the bulk stock in the tanks and come out with the following: 1. Contributing factor(s) for the differences; 2. Recommend how to avoid reoccurrence and, 3. Propose to management how the difference should be handled."

After about two months later, the specialized Investigative Committed reported on June 9, 2014 that, among other things contributing to the variances, there was water drained of 4,113 gallons in TX# 407; and theft of 27,000 gallons of gasoline in TX# 408.

The reports confirmed the disparity in the Universal Surveyor Incorporated report between the actual stock in the tanks and the importer's stock balances.

The LPRC independent Intelligence and Investigation (I&I) committee, which investigated the theft further, said the cost of the stolen 27,000 gallons of gasoline should be defrayed on the LPRC and make Mr. Darblah to restitute the money or be sued.

Meanwhile, President George M. Weah recently commissioned a special taskforce headed by Trokon Kpui, Minister of State Without Portfolio, to investigate and establish what caused an estimated 60 percent discrepancy between importers' inventory reports of products at the LPRC and actual stock of products as its petroleum facilities.

The presidential task force mandate will cover the period between January 2017 and January 2020 and also include the following members: George D. Wolo, Ministry of Commerce; Peter D. Somah, Ministry of Commerce; Rufus G. Mahn, Liberia Revenue Authority; Augustine G. Chenoway, LRA; Dominic K.L. Hina, Ministry of Finance Development Planning.

The committee is expected to give a detailed understanding of the LPRC petroleum storage process and determine importation dates, product quantity and lifting schedules with the view of ensuring corrective measures to prevent a recurrence of the present situation.

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