The purpose of our advocacy and public policy programme is to serve as the voice for the consumer of petroleum when and where needed, shape public policy through individual and collective action, and build the capacity of businesses and individuals to be strong advocates for issues that basically affect the consumer.
We intend to do this through two primary pathways:
Our public policy agenda include legislative advocacy efforts such as expanding consumer awareness programmes, giving incentives and funding for consumer capacity building, preserving non-profit advocacy and lobbying rights for the benefit of the end user of petroleum. In terms of advocacy capacity building, COPEC wishes to reach and network with hundreds of consumer associations such as the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), Ghana Road Transport and Coordinating Council (GRTCC), Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and many more to provide educational and technical training through our advocacy toolkits, training programmes, and principles and practices.
The purpose of conducting comprehensive researches and fact finding is our way of contributing to maintaining and raising industry standards for the eventual benefit of the end user or consumer. It becomes very useful for governments, industry players, individuals and the consuming public to have access to credible information to enable effective planning and future forecasts. Research will help cost saving methods and measures for all including governments and the general Ghanaian public.
The purpose of our information sharing programme is two-fold:
The purpose of our network building programme is to connect the public and industry players to one another and other sectors of society in order to facilitate non-profit advancement and support. Although this is a new area of focus for COPEC, our work involves connecting our members through technology and networking opportunities, developing and supporting local non-profit networks, and building relationships between the non-profit community and other sectors of society (business, government, etc.).
In the year 2015, the downstream petroleum sector saw the introduction of a full petroleum pricing deregulation in line with Ghana’s Petroleum Deregulation Policy. The deregulation of the downstream sector has seen a significant reduction of government controls of the sector to allow for a free and efficient marketplace. Deregulation of the sector has indeed allowed the forces of demand and supply to determine ex-pump prices of petroleum products as well as to set operating margins and tariffs for players in the downstream industry. The aim is to ensure that there is full cost recovery to all investors in the downstream whiles the regulator continues to ensure standards and quality of products on the market conforms to minimum acceptable standards.
The period hitherto had Government controlling fully all issues pertaining to pricing and standards and as such was easier to blame same for any unfairness or arbitrariness. The introduction of the price deregulation programme on 15th June 2015 saw the system begin a process of strong competition which saw prices change at the pumps on a bi-weekly basis. The onset of Ghana’s price deregulation programme restored some hope in the ability of the system to churn out fair and reasonable prices at the pumps. However, developments over the past couple of months seem to point to the contrary as prices have been stayed at times when figures prevailing both on the world markets and the Cedi’s stability have pointed to needed reductions.
Government through the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and its strategic storage reserves and some bulk oil distribution companies becomes a player and a regulator of the markets; a clear case of concern for the consumer who continues to demand fairness in pricing but has been denied. The system has often seen an upward adjustment when need be but periods for reductions often is fraught with feet dragging and time wasting even if it eventually goes down. Through the importation of crude oil and petroleum products, as well as its control in the establishment and operation of facilities by both old and new entrants into the downstream, the government continues to hold a rather firmer grip on the downstream.
In the light of the aforementioned, it is becoming increasingly difficult to agree the system is indeed a free market, driven only by the forces of demand and supply. It is also sad to say that some petroleum service providers in their quest to maximise profits have often engaged in one of the biggest challenges that continues to confront the downstream, adulteration. Adulteration is when other foreign matter is mixed with petroleum for the purposes of increasing quantity in order to make much money to the detriment of the unsuspecting consumer. This phenomenon, though high on the priority of the regulator, continues to be a major challenge to the Ghanaian consumer as the modus operandi of these wicked players keep changing making it difficult to track and disband. A section of our security persons who should arrest and cause the prosecution of these fraudsters have often chosen to collude to make money instead.
The pricing windows have often seen a significant number of the Petroleum Service Providers passing the total burden associated with increases, especially when world oil prices go up or there is a fall in the value of the local currency, the Ghanaian cedi (GH¢), as against the United States dollar (US$) ultimately to the consumer as a result of the inelastic nature of the demand for petroleum products. Again, any increase in taxes and other tariffs by government end up also as a burden to the consumer. However, there is always a general unwillingness on the part of the Petroleum Service Providers to reduce prices as and when the need arises. This, unfortunately, gives credence to the old economic adage that "prices are flexible upwards, but rigid downwards". When this is allowed to continue, it is the ultimate consumer who suffers and could eventually lead to the waning of confidence in the rather useful price deregulation programme.
In order to address the concerns and protect the interest of consumers, COPEC-GH introduced the bi-weekly pricing window outlook reviews, analysis and publications of same and continues to also engage both the industry and the end user for a much clearer appreciation of the system as well as movements of prices on the international markets and its direct impact on local pump prices. Through our periodic and bi-weekly press releases and publications we have continued to state our position on issues of petroleum especially ones of concern to the Ghanaian consumer, as we continue to develop such resources to ensure fairness for both industry and the end user.
The releases in various ways have also helped in forcing many OMCs to reduce or increase their prices, sometimes reluctantly. Even though the windows for reductions have, in most cases, not met our expectations and that of the Ghanaian people, we believe we have made some appreciable strides in this direction. With the coming on board of our primary consumer Stakeholders Council which comprises, GPRTU, AGI, ICU, ISSER and many more, the voice and concerns of Ghanaians through the Chamber, have surely been stronger and more significant impactsare made anytime there comes the need to articulate consumers issues and concerns.
Again, on the 15th September, 2016, a Swiss-based research agency, the Public Eye, in collaboration with the African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), launched its research finding it had conducted over a 3 year period on the quality and standards of petroleum products, especially diesel across 8 African countries including Ghana. According to this research, Africa and for that matter Ghana, has been a dumping ground for rather poor grade high sulphur content fuels. This is largely because of poor regulatory standards in these countries.
It is instructive to note that sulphur is crucial to air pollution because of its direct health-damaging effects and the destruction of emissions control technologies in vehicles. As long as fuel sulphur content remains so high, any efforts to reduce air pollution (for example, by modernising our car fleet) will be in vain. At a time when European standard specification is 10 parts per million (ppm) for diesel, Ghana’s standard at present is 3000 parts per million (ppm).What this simply means is that Ghanaian sulphur limits in diesel are 300 times above the internationally acceptable, healthy, and environmentally friendly limits as pertains in Asia, Europe and other places. The effect of this is that Ghanaians continue to die earlier than their counterparts elsewhere in Asia, Europe, America, and parts of Africa due to clearly preventable air pollutants one of which is in contention here. Ghanaians continue to have much more respiratory challenges not forgetting the sad frequent experiences of more breakdowns for both industrial and automotive engines including trucks and buses than their European and western counterparts.
When this issue broke up, COPEC GH, together with its major stakeholders, embarked on frantic campaigns both locally and internationally to ensure engines, the environment and public health are not left endangered any further as it had been. We immediately started engaging the relevant stakeholders including the Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD) and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) on how this unfortunate phenomenon could be arrested promptly in order to provide safer and cleaner fuels to Ghanaians. Our efforts have yielded some results in this direction. On Monday 3rd October, 2016, the NPA announced a revision of the standard from the current 3000ppm to 500ppm effective January 2017. The announcement further added that Bulk Distribution Companies (BDCs) should, henceforth, import up to 10ppm fuels.
However, we were of the belief that the Ghanaian deserved good, if not better products, bearing in mind all the benefits low sulphur content fuels present to engines (industrial and domestic), automobiles and public health. We strongly held the opinion that the revised standard of 500ppm, which was intended to take effect from January 2017 would not in any way fully address our concerns and that of the public and continued to demand immediate and further reductions in the high sulphur products which the Ghanaian public has vehemently spoken against and rejected. It was evidently clear that the new standard of 500ppm maximum would not address the problem as the major stakeholders were calling for. COPEC GH and the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) did not relent in our efforts to get authorities to do what was necessary for the common good of all and sundry.
Our consistent agitation for cleaner fuels saw some further improvement in the standards to 50ppm effective January 2017 as announced by the National Petroleum Authority on Monday, 31st October, 2016. It is our hope that the regulator will give a clearly defined roadmap on when the country intends to move to ultra low sulphur standard of 10ppm as demanded by all stakeholders in the industry and well-meaning Ghanaians.
The purpose of our professional and organisational development programme is to help the industry advance from the current maze of challenges and frustrations, which ultimately make the consumer bear the brunt and consequences of whatever rife or harsh decisions that are eventually arrived at by the system. Contributing knowledge and findings as an organisation to help strengthen and create an effective, efficient, and sustainable charitable downstream is an objective we seek to vehemently project by building a much stronger independent organisation. COPEC-GH standards, principles and practices in the downstream shall serve as the foundation of our POD programme aimed at strictly putting a monitoring team together to ensure complaints and concerns of our core focus or target group receive the necessary attention and resolution thereof.
We also set out on 5 core principles for non-profit organisational development followed by a series of broadly accepted practices, some of which are required by state and the industry as well as international best practices. We intend to support our principles and practices framework through a broad array of implementation resources including on-line and self-help tools, phone and email technical assistance and consultation, training and educational opportunities, conferences, and many more. More than any other programme concept, our POD work has substantial room for growth given the demand for our services and the overall need for accessible and affordable POD assistance.
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