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Fuel theft crippling industry

As fuel prices soar and remains unstable, so does fuel theft at local service stations. Even though no official statistics are kept of fuel theft cases, theft of fuel is a growing problem in Namibia, says chairman of  the Association of Service Station Owners (ASSO), Rupert Harmse.
It is not known how much fuel theft costs the industry annually as no official statistics are kept but according to Harmse, fuel theft is common amongst commercial retailers and operators, and is  difficult to spot.
“We are aware of a number of major cases of fuel theft taking place from wholesalers’ depots or between depot and transport to the retail outlets. These are however dealt with by the oil companies. We don’t believe that specific statistics are kept on this,” he said.
Harmse added that retailers were constantly facing a battle managing cost components of their businesses within an industry with fixed profit margins retrospectively applied.
He cautions: “Theft at retail outlets is an ongoing problem experienced all over the world and requires retailers to be constantly on the lookout to ensure that they immediately pick up on cases of theft. They should do daily stock taking and implement the necessary measures to pick up on and prevent and stop theft and card fraud taking place.”
In addition to fuel theft, Harmse said operators in the sector were losing out on profits due to card fraud.
“Often fleet cards are stolen and then fuel is bought with stolen cards. Due to current inadequacies in the fleet card system, the dealer cannot immediately become aware that a card is stolen. In most instances, the owner of the fleet card only realises a month later that cards are stolen and reports them. These cards have been extensively used and accepted by unsuspecting dealers. In most cases, it is the dealer who carries the loss and not the bank or the card owner,” he explained.
ASSO, as the representative body and voice of Namibian retailers, keeps a close eye on developments and challenges in the market and tries to be pro-active on events mindful of the impact thereof on retailers and their interest.
“As such we play an extremely valuable role on behalf of our members,” Harmse said.
It’s a non –profit organisation that serves the retail fuel industry on national level. The association is the link between government, oil companies, private sector and the local service station owners. It has over 180 members from across the country,composed of franchise representatives of Shell, Engen, Total and Puma Energy.

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