The fuel market finds itself at the mercy of smugglers and all kinds of illegal activity, as the government – which before the election had pledged 1 billion euros of extra revenues from containing tax evasion in the sector – admitted on Tuesday through Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis that just a few checks are in fact implemented. His argument was that the bonus granted to inspectors based on the number of checks they carry out has been abolished.
The absence of monitoring by the specially equipped vehicles of the Fuel Trading and Depositing Inspection Teams (KEDAK), regulated by the Energy Ministry, combined with the planning of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue to extend the completion of the fuel flow monitoring system until end-2018, provide an environment of immunity for all sorts of illegal trading. Market rule breakers benefit further from the profit margins provided by the increased tax on fuel since the start of the year.
The government’s inactivity has sent shock waves across the industry, which on Tuesday launched a campaign to inform the competent authorities (starting with the IAPR) as to the extent of the problem, demanding immediate measures and tabling proposals for combating illegal trading.
Representatives of the Petroleum Marketing Companies Association (SEEPE) met on Tuesday with IAPR chief Giorgos Pitsilis and reportedly advised him: “Begin your checks immediately. We intend to contribute toward their financing. Proceed also to a partial operation of the fuel flow monitoring system if you cannot complete it in its entirety any earlier.”
Stathakis confirmed the market’s concerns, presenting Parliament with the figures of KEDAK’s inspections last year. They showed that checks dropped 53 percent within two years, from 4,018 in 2014 to just 1,875 last year. Compared to 40 decisions to impose fines in 2014, just 10 fines were issued in 2016, representing a 75 percent decline. Fines in 2014 had added up to 1,784,554 euros, while last year they came to 178,191 euros, a staggering reduction of 90 percent in just two years. A fraction of those fines is thought to have been collected by the state.