National Fuel Pass cripples fuel mafia

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In an effort to reduce lengthy fuel lines dragging for months, the National Fuel Pass QR system has now been implemented at all filling stations in the country.

The system appears to be making progress, as users applaud it for significantly reducing fuel line wait times. At the same time, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), which played a key role in the system’s development, issued a warning to users not to use fraudulent means of obtaining fuel, because these actions can be quickly caught by the system and will result in legal action.

System in place

The Ministry of Power and Energy instructed fuel stations to start issuing fuel as of 1 August in accordance with the National Fuel Pass QR system. The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) also regularly distributes fuel from its terminals to their filling stations so that the public can receive it using the QR system.

A total of 675,960 transactions were made at 1,004 fuel stations run by the CPC and Lanka IOC during the 24-hour period that concluded at 6:00 a.m. on 4 August. 5.6 million litres of fuel were issued based on the QR system.

A total of 617,631 transactions were made at 903 fuel stations run by the CPC and Lanka IOC over the 24-hour period that concluded at 6:00 a.m. on 3 August. 5.03 million litres of fuel were distributed based on the QR system.

A total of 902 fuel stations run by the CPC and Lanka IOC saw 57,950 transactions during the 24-hour period that concluded at 6:00 a.m. on 2 August, and 4.6 million litres of fuel were distributed via the QR system.

A total of 457,360 transactions were made at 820 fuel stations owned by the CPC and Lanka IOC during the 24-hour period that ended at 6:00 a.m. on 1 August, when 3.8 million litres of fuel were distributed via the QR system.

Most people near fuel stations reported that the new system is effective and successful. The public praised it as well. According to a twice-weekly allocation established by the National Fuel Pass system, fuel was provided for vehicles.

While this is going on, the Ministry is still urging people to submit video or photographic proof of anyone stockpiling and selling fuel at inflated prices or providing fuel in violation of the National Fuel Pass system.

Criticism and praise

With the scheme being implemented islandwide, people could be seen buying fuel via the QR system. When the system was put in place, customers at fuel stations said there were significantly fewer three-wheelers in the queues and that the fuel mafia was no longer in operation. According to them, the primary problem is when three-wheelers prevent them from getting fuel pumped, but thanks to the system, they can now.

“If many people can obtain fuel and it is done in accordance with a technique, the QR system is good. Today, I spent approximately an hour there. There is still a lot of time. They declared that the system was effective,” a vehicle owner said.

However, some claim that despite the QR system being in place, customers still face long waiting times. Kottawa vehicle owners complained: “The system is good. But without the required fuel, it makes no difference.”

After a filling station in Galenbindunuwewa stopped dispensing fuel around 8:30 p.m. on 3 August, there was reportedly a tense situation. The Police were able to control the situation. 

Fuel is distributed daily at the Peradeniya CEYPETCO filling station, however, lines are visible because fuel reserves are not yet available. Meanwhile, school bus owners in Matara complained that the fuel allocated for the week is insufficient.

Long queues

Further, due to the new technological breakthrough, there are now fewer long lines outside a majority of filling stations that use the Fuel Pass QR code system. This technology is capable of identifying those who tried to fraudulently obtain fuel, according to Director and Software Architect of ICTA, Dasun Hegoda. He added they expect to institute legal action against such people.

When queried if any of these individuals had been arrested, he responded that they had been made aware of some fraudulent acts and were presently taking the necessary action against them.

Law enforcement agencies continue their raids in the interim to put a stop to the unlawful hoarding of fuel for later sale at higher prices. Bus proprietors and three-wheeler drivers both expressed concern over the amount of fuel being given. Five litres is not enough for a week, according to three-wheeler drivers. Three-wheeler drivers are required to register at a Police station and choose a filling station in order to fill up on their five litres of petrol allocated each week.

Three-wheeler drivers complained that five litres for Rs 2,000 was insufficient for a week of driving at up to 30 km, which they must do. “Due to the great demand for hiring, five litres is enough only for two days,” they complained. According to them, the Government has prioritised private transportation over public and goods transportation when it comes to fuel provision.

The All-Island Three-Wheeler Drivers’ Association is vehemently opposed to receiving their National Fuel Pass QR code by signing up at a Police station. The Association’s President, Lailith Dharmasekara emphasised that drivers can register their vehicles with the Divisional Secretariats and the Passenger Transport Authority rather than travelling to Police stations. He elaborated that the country’s law gave the Passenger Transport Authority the authorisation to assume such duties.

For security reasons, the registration of three-wheelers was introduced during the LTTE conflict. This mechanism is no longer required, he continued.

Dharmasekara added that they accept the QR Code approach and even advocate allowing three-wheelers that provide taxi services to register using this method in order to put the sector into a formal system with rules.

Fuel distribution

Although several CEYPETCO and Lanka IOC filling stations have installed the National Fuel Pass QR code system, the Petroleum Dealers’ Association (PDA) reported the filling stations are not receiving enough fuel and this has become a serious problem.

PDA Co-Secretary, Kapila Naotunna claimed that although lines were shortening to some extent, they were still present because some persons who came to get fuel but were not in possession of a National Fuel Pass were required to depart empty-handed.

“If the Government can deliver at least one fuel bowser to the filling station each day, the National Fuel Pass QR code system will succeed,” he said. He added that because so many vehicle owners and fuel stations were registered with the QR code system, no fights were reported at fuel stations or in fuel lines.

The National Fuel Pass registration requirements for businesses, organisations, and government entities have been released by the Ministry of Energy.

According to Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, the relevant institution is required to register each vehicle on the National Fuel Pass QR system with a unique Mobile number, National Identity Card (NIC), Passport, or Business Registration Number of the vehicle driver or any user of the vehicle.

He added that starting on 12 August, institutions with several vehicles would be able to register with just one unique mobile number and one BRN or code assigned to them. The temporary QR received should be removed at this time, Minister Wijesekera said.

He urged the users of the National Fuel Pass not to display the QR code to others. He also asked the National Fuel Pass owners to keep it in a secure place and to make sure no one else uses it illegally. 

The option to Delete a current profile feature is available now as well as the option to register again.

Meanwhile, a meeting with the association of Fuel Station Dealers’ Association was held. The National Fuel Pass QR system was discussed, and it was made clear that only stations having a fully functional QR system would receive fuel. Discussions also included issues with sales, improvements to the National Fuel Pass system, fuel regulations, and fuel needs for Police stations.

According to D.V. Shantha Silva, Joint Secretary of the Petroleum Private Tanker Owners’ Association of Sri Lanka, since the QR system was implemented, fuel lines were incredibly short and fuel filling stations had more petrol left over than on other days.

“Typically, over the past few months, a bowser’s fuel runs out in a matter of hours when it visits a filling station. The scenario has changed, making life simpler for both the filling station and the public,” he said.

Fuel for agriculture

The Ministry of Power and Energy will take steps to establish a separate category for the fuel required for agricultural machinery, and fuel will be issued for agricultural machinery in the Mahaweli area using this method.

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera said the old fuel transporting bowsers are presently being repaired, and that a programme to provide fuel to agricultural fields will begin soon.

These decisions were made during a discussion at the Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority about the provision of fuel for harvesting the Yala season in the Mahaweli area’s paddy lands, as well as for farming activities during the high season.

Minister Wijesekera said fuel depots in military camps will provide farmers with access to fuel.

The kick-start

The National Fuel Pass QR code system has been activated, making it mandatory for everyone, after months of testing in various filling stations islandwide. Many people had to endure days of fuel lines as a result of illegal fuel hoarding and occasionally they had to return home without a drop of fuel. However, now that people may be comfortable with the QR system even though they are only eligible to receive a very small quantity of fuel, it appears to be fine and well-liked by everyone.

By Thameenah Razeek