A controversy has arisen between the local leadership in Masaka and small-scale fuel retailers, against the compliance enforcement teams of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards-UNBS and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development over the clampdown on single-pump fuel stations in the area.
Enforcement teams from the two government agencies jointly conducted impromptu operations this week clamping down on illegal fuel dealers who included single-pump fuel retailers, those selling adulterated fuel, and stations with compromised fuel pumps that cheat clients.
However, the area leadership has described the operation as undue persecution of small-scale fuel retailers that operate with single-pump stations. Led by the Masaka City Mayor Florence Namayanja, the leaders argue that while the clampdown on dealers with adulterated fuel and compromised pumps is justified, it is improper to close down small-scale retail outlets, which are categorized as single-pump stations
She argues that although the small-scale retailers fall short of the required structural standards such as lack of overhead canopies and spacious parking yards, they have to maintain the quality of the fuel as compared to the mid-size counterparts whom she says are major culprits of fuel adulteration. According to Namayanja, the outlets were licensed by the local authorities who also contribute to local revenue collections
She blames UNBS and Ministry of Energy standards enforcement teams for conducting the operation without involving the local authorities, arguing that such small retail dealers need to be supported to gradually meet all the requirements other than forcing them out of the fuel business.
Stephen Ngobya, one of the small-scale retail dealers who were affected by the clampdown says that the regulation in its current form is not considerate of small-sized dealers who may not afford midsized fuel stations.
According to him, the services of single-pump fuel dealers are still needed in rural areas and satellite towns that are located far away from the main fuel dealers. He explains that the majority of the single-pump station owners have just upgraded from retailing fuel in jerrycans, saying that they now needed to be supported as they gradually transition into mid-sized dealers.
However, Reverend Frank Tukwasibwe, the Commissioner for Petroleum Supply at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development explains that their operations are not intended to harass anybody but to streamline the fuel supply chain for the common good. He challenged fuel dealers, to voluntarily comply with the regulations or else the enforcement teams will continue pursuing them until they meet the standards.
David Livingstone Ebiru, the Executive Director of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards advised the single-pump fuel dealers to find alternative businesses if they cannot upgrade to meet the set standards, saying the bodies cannot bend the laws for unacceptable operators.