Nuku’alofa: A team of investigators recently conducted surprise inspections at LP Home Gas Ltd at Touliki in Ma’ofanga, on the mainland of Tongatapu.
This resulted in seven of the staff members dismissed, the board of directors was dissolved and the company underwent major restructuring.
The Minister for Public Enterprises Hon.Fe'ao Vakata said the board that operated the Home Gas Company had since been brought under the control of the Tonga Power Board.
The investigators found out the company’s staff duped customers, by filling lower quantity of liquefied petroleum gas bottles than was proper for the full amount paid and customers paid less money for full bottles.
It was unknown what prompted the investigation but it has been revealed the scandal remained uncovered in the company for more than ten years.
Hon. Vakata said it was found out that refuelers at the company had been known to offer customers the chance to purchase gas under the table.
The customers paid less money at the office for gas. According to the procedure, they took with them the receipts to the refuelers, to confirm they have paid and what amount of gas to fill.
When they handed their receipts to the refueler, it was found some handed them over together with just small amount of extra money. The refueler would pocket it, understanding that he has to fill the bottle up.
To make sure the authorities would not become aware of any accounting discrepancies the refuelers reduced the amount of gas filled on bottles they delivered to the gas stations or retail shops, the investigators found.
The normal quantity for a bottle of gas is 13 kilos. The investigators found that many of the bottles were only filled with 9kg, and sold for the price of 13kg.
It was also found the refuelers have their own empty gas bottles.
They secretly filled these bottles and delivered them together with bottles that are registered by the company’s office, to gas stations.
When they collected the money from the gas stations, then they pocketed the money for their own bottles.
Tonga Power has so far made major overhaul to the Home Gas operational system making replacements to weighing scales and supplied the retail shops and gas stations with weighing scales to make sure people would measure their bottle of gases it they doubt them.
Surveillance cameras are also installed now at the building where the gas is filled.