THE Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board has begun investigations into fictitious bridging claims by some oil marketers, even as it paid in excess of N17.4bn outstanding claims for four year period between 2004 and 2008.
The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive of the Fund, Mrs Adefunke Kasali, who gave the hint in Lagos on Thursday, could not give more details into the claims investigations, except to say that the claims were worth millions of naira.
“The dubious claims were detected by our audit unit, and in order not to jeopardise our investigations, I can only say that the claims were worth millions and we will give more details as soon as we conclude our investigations,” she told journalists.
She explained that this was part of the reason the agency is making its operations fully automated as well as introducing the electronic products distribution monitoring system, tagged, Project Aquila.
Marketers are entitled to bridging claim of between N8 and N9 per litre for a distance of 450km and above, which is used to reimburse them for the cost of transporting products from one destination to another within the distance limit.
Kasali, who was in Lagos to interact with stakeholders and intimate them on the workings of the new system, urged participants to cooperate with the agency, as Project Aquila will facilitate prompt settlement of claims.
Defending the efficacy of the system, which will captures transaction from the loading depot to the reception depot, the PEF boss argued that it will remove the inefficiencies associated with bridging of petroleum products in the country.
She said, “Aquila is an electronic confirmation of products delivery. After months of brain storming, we discovered that an electronic solution is the only way to serve marketers better and more efficiently.”
She noted that delays in the payment of bridging claims in the past resulted in sharp practices by marketers, in order to break even.
Kasali also used the opportunity to address the concerns of stakeholders, which included major and independent marketers, depot and jetty owners, transport owners, petroleum tanker drivers, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and a host of others regarding the effectiveness of the Aquila.
She explained that the Project Aquila is in three phases, the first of which will begin in January with the registration of trucks, which will be permanently tagged with a data card, which will be used in the transaction capture, using Radio Frequency Identification (RFI) equipment.
With regard to the security of the system, and ability to eliminate sharp practices, she explained that the software for the electronic transaction capture was developed in-house, adding that any bridging transaction not captured by the system, is automatically nullified ad no payments would be made.
Under the new system, processing of claims are concluded within two weeks and payments made electronically. She explained that the beauty of the e-payment is such that, she, as the final approving party can effect payment from anywhere in the world as long as there is Internet facility.
Furthermore, she insisted that the system is tamper-proof and will not be easy for hackers to manipulate the software, saying, “We have the resources to keep the system safe, and to keep increasing the security.”