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Millions for bad gas - Gov’t approves $24.5m in compensation to motorists for 2015 saga

Published:Thursday | August 1, 2019 | 12:31 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

The Andrew Holness administration has endorsed a recommendation that a total of $24.5 million in compensation be paid to hundreds of motorists whose vehicles were damaged during the 2015 bad gas saga.

This development comes even as the final report of the Petroleum Trade Reform Committee (PTRC) revealed that there was “no definitive conclusion” about a “specific contaminant” in the petrol sold to the public between November 2015 and March 2016.

The PTRC was established by former Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell in 2016 to conduct a thorough investigation into alleged contaminated petrol.

It remains unclear who will make the multimillion-dollar payout, but Energy Minister Fayval Williams told Parliament yesterday that she has already dispatched a letter to Petrojam, urging the state-owned oil refinery to bring closure to the matter.

“The letter from me to the chairman of Petrojam simply says we need to resolve this issue. Whether there is a breakdown in terms of payment by Petrojam or the private sector, it just needs to come to a resolution,” Williams said in a statement to the House of Representatives.

“It’s been outstanding [for] too long,” she added.

According to Williams, the $24.5 million figure was arrived at by the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) based on verified claims submitted by 381 motorists. The CAC had received 478 complaints in the aftermath of the situation which drove fear into the motoring public, but 55 were ignored because they did not have all the requisite information such as proof of purchase and mechanical reports.

The proposed compensation is among a number of legislative and non-legislative recommendations made by the PTRC, which also undertook a comprehensive review of the regulations and protocols governing Jamaica’s petroleum trade.

Williams indicated that her ministry has accepted a dozen of the recommendations and has already begun developing drafting instructions to have them implemented.

One of the recommendations accepted by the Government will make it an offence for gasolene retailers to purchase fuel from unlicensed bulk distributors or haulage contractors.

“An offender will be liable to have his licence revoked,” Williams said.

The energy ministry has also accepted a proposal that will make it mandatory for consumers to get a receipt for gas purchases; the re-establishment of a petroleum inspectorate; and that all fuel-dispensing nozzles should be fitted with an appropriate filter recommended by Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ).

In December 2015, a total of 17 gas stations were ordered closed by the BSJ after Paulwell publicly acknowledged complaints from scores of motorists that their vehicles had been damaged by contaminated petrol.

A fuel-quality report released at the time pointed to illegal mixing stations, rogue gas stations and conspiracies between persons at various levels of the petroleum trade.