The crisis caused by the shortage of jet fuel is a matter of grave national concern. There is a disturbing pattern to this problem that points to deliberate acts by cartels out to short-circuit the system and make tonnes of money.
The Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) must come clean and tell Kenyans how 51 million litres of jet fuel worth billions of shillings can just disappear into thin air without explanation. Whereas its offer to conduct a forensic audit offers hope that the problem will be identified, the country is banking on it to get to the bottom of the scam before it morphs into a crisis of bigger proportion.
This seems to be a problem that has been gradually growing. Some KPC officials have been conceivably cooking the books and hiding under fuel ‘spillage and evaporation’ - which are common occurrences in the logistics process - to overstate the fuel losses to the detriment of marketers.
It could turn out that the overstated loss could in actual sense be what is illegally siphoned off in a racket that seemingly runs deep. It is also plausible that the racketeers have been concealing their dastardly acts by falsely stating that some of the missing fuel had been stolen.
All these point to a grand and elaborate syndicate by thieves with insatiable appetite for easy money. And this is where the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission ought to swing into action.
While oil marketing companies have evidently borne the brunt of this loss, the ripple effects will be felt throughout the entire economy. Jet fuel business is a key segment of the economy by itself, but fundamentally, its shortage is bound to have a negative impact on other key sectors.
This is particularly the case taking into account the fact that the volumes of fuel involved are huge enough to pose a threat to the operations of our main airports - Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport - which are key arteries for movement of people and goods into, within and out of the country. As a country in which tourism is a vital pillar of the economy, this is terrible news.