Picture: Lizéll Muller

 Between 10 and 25 percent of the fuel bought by the Sol Plaatje Municipality every year since 2010 may have been stolen.

The theft of municipal fuel has led to the arrests of six municipal employees on Monday after they were found in possession of petrol and diesel, believed to have been stolen from the council’s yard in Ashburnham.

Although municipal spokesman, Sello Matsie, said that about 10 percent of the municipal’s annual fuel purchase was stolen every year since 2010, the Managing Director of FAS Authentication (Pty) Ltd, Johann van Niekerk, estimated that this figure could be as high as 25 percent per year.

“Our investigations have shown that between 15 and 25 percent of fuel was being stolen from the municipality every year since 2010. This is millions of rands that we are talking about,” Van Niekerk said.

Matsie said that the municipality hired FAS Authentication, a company that deals with combating fuel theft and counterfeit fuels, about two years ago when the municipality realised that the theft of fuel was increasing.

“About two years ago we realised that some of our employees were turning the municipality into their own fuel company by stealing fuel from the council yard and selling it at half price to some city residents.

“The suspected employees allegedly siphoned diesel and sold it at a discounted rate to members of the public, including those in the transportation business,” Matsie stated.

He said that DNA profiling technology used by FAS Authentication gave the municipality’s fuel a unique DNA profile.

“This means that once we (the municipality) have taken delivery of our fuel, the company would add particular chemicals to ensure that the fuel is no longer identical to any other fuel being used by members of the public.

“As a result the petrol and diesel being used by municipal vehicles are not the same as that being used by members of the public.

“This allowed us to work with the police in an undercover operation to infiltrate the workers who were stealing and selling municipal fuel,” Matsie said.

He added that, with the help of undercover agents, the municipality and the police were able to indentify the workers who were stealing the fuel at the council yard in Ashburnham.

Northern Cape police spokesman, Colonel Hendrik Swart, said yesterday that during the operation, called Operation Gas, the police visited the houses of suspected buyers and sellers of the stolen municipal diesel and petrol.

Police confiscated plastic containers with 623 litres of diesel and 25 litres of petrol.

“Fuel samples of 13 vehicles were taken and will be sent for forensic analysis,” Swart stated.

Matsie confirmed that some of those arrested for fuel theft at the municipality were municipal employees.

He also said that they were appalled that containers filled with diesel were stored at houses in the city without regard for the safety of members of the public.

He said that employees implicated in the theft of fuel at the municipality would face internal disciplinary processes.

“Today’s action is the beginning of a process that will result in further disciplinary action and criminal charges against those implicated.

“And, as we speak, disciplinary processes are being prepared for those of our workers allegedly involved in the scam,” Matsie said.

Among the areas that were raided by the police were houses in Galeshewe, Colville, Roodepan and Square Hill Park.

Swart said that those arrested will appear in court today to face charges of racketeering. - DFA