In recent years, the government of Zambia became aware they had a problem with illegal fuel dumping and/or adulteration. In fact, Zambia’s Energy Regulation Board (ERB) estimated that these activities were depriving the government of 81 million dollars USD per year in fuel tax revenue. To determine what fuel products were being manipulated, and where in the country the illicit activities were most rampant, the ERB implemented an ongoing fuel authentication program.
In February of this year, fuel from all government depots and certain national-oil-company depots intended for the Zambian domestic market were marked with a small quantity of a biochemical substance that acts as an identifiable “fingerprint” for the fuel. With more than six months of significant data from this authentication program, the ERB is initiating enforcement actions.
Baseline sampling and testing of Zambia’s fuel supply chain have answered the “what and where” questions about fuel manipulation that had previously eluded the ERB. They reveal that 1) there is a high incidence of tax avoidance through dilution of domestic fuel with unmarked products and/or kerosene; and 2) fuel manipulation is most prevalent along the country’s North/South transit corridor.
Based on these findings, the ERB has undertaken targeted enforcement actions. But they are also conducting continuous, impromptu sampling and testing of fuel at all filling stations, bulk fuel storage facilities, fuel tankers, and retail facilities for domestic consumption. The consumers of this fuel include mining and allied industries, construction, transport and logistics, general commerce, and the agricultural sector.
In addition, those who are suspected of conducting illegal fuel manipulation activities have been warned that the ERB working with Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), and the Zambia Police (ZP) are dealing firmly with fuel manipulators.
If an entity is found in possession of, selling, distributing, and/or transporting non-conforming petroleum products, ERB enforcement actions and penalties include license suspension or revocation, and the imposition of considerable fines and/or imprisonment (once convicted) for a period not exceeding two years.
The ERB and other cooperating government agencies are all enthusiastically undertaking appropriate enforcement actions to end fuel manipulation in Zambia. The ERB is optimistic that the effectiveness of the fuel authentication program will help ensure that fuel quality is guaranteed, and that maximum tax revenue can be realized from fuel sales in Zambia.
The impressive progress of the Zambian fuel authentication program is yet another example that fuel authentication programs such as theirs demonstrate a return on investment that is well-documented and compelling.
In addition, they provide other associated benefits—not the least of which is that they can help
governments ensure authentic products are sold in-country to benefit law abiding citizens – not criminals. Fuel marking solutions enable governments to collect more excise taxes without raising taxes for the benefit of citizens and legitimate industries