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Government could formally demand marketing companies help cover $25 million in bad gas claims

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2016 | 6:00 AMJovan Johnson

The Jamaican Government could formally demand that marketing companies help cover the compensation claims for bad gas amounting to $25 million.

A government source who asked not to be named has said that the matter was discussed at the Cabinet this week and a formal approach was to be made "shortly".

Yesterday, Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley disclosed the figure while making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.

The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), which is pursuing the claims, said it could not give a payment timeline.

"We have more than 400 claims. Three hundred and eighty-seven have supporting documents. We are rooting for persons to be compensated because their vehicles were damaged," Dolsie Allen, chief executive officer of the CAC, told The Gleaner.

The Jamaica Gasolene Retailers' Association has argued that petroleum marketing companies should play a key role in any compensation process.

DISAPPOINTED BY LACK OF FINDINGS

Meanwhile, Wheatley reiterated that he was "disappointed" that the Petroleum Trade Reform Committee (PTRC) set up in January did not find the source of contaminated gas on the local market.

"The PTRC identified several gaping holes in the sector's modus operandi, particularly as it relates to the chain of custody of petroleum products, as well as with operating standards and arrangements throughout the distributive trade," he said.

The energy minister said many of the recommendations would be addressed through legislation, which he said was being worked on "as a matter of priority and urgency".

"We will do everything in our power to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again."

The Government is looking at re-establishing a fully staffed petroleum inspectorate under the purview of the ministry to, among other things, regulate, oversee and monitor the petroleum sector. It is also pushing to amend legislation to strengthen the stewardship requirements for importing and distributing products.

The licensing regime in the sector will also be toughened with stricter conditions for all players in the sector.

Hundreds of motorists started complaining late last year of vehicle problems after buying gas. The Bureau of Standards Jamaica had ordered the closure of several pumps after the contaminated gas was identified at the facilities.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com