Saving the government coffer

Finally there is a solution to the simple problem that the government or the public corporations could never find so far. In the meantime, they have lost millions of Ngultrums, if we go back to the days when we introduced pool vehicle.

The e-receipt, which is dispensed with details of transactions, including the vehicle number could stop the rampant practice of stealing money at the fuel station. The modus operandi is simple. Refuel 10 litres of petrol and reflect it in the book as 20, for instance. The difference is shared.

There are code words and signs that only drivers and fuel attendants understand. They make it so normal. One driver was quick to point out that the hands that touch the pots will be stained, referring to a Bhutanese proverb. This is how rampant it sounds.

The amount may be not huge, but when accounted for years, it could surprise us. A litre a day is roughly Nu 1, 276 a month. Multiply that by the number of drivers. Even if all are not stealing, the amount could still be alarming. The distributor is not affected.

The e-receipt facility at one of the fuel station may not stop the trend, but it could still save the government millions. It is a welcome move. The urgency is all stations should adopt it. It is not a difficult technology. It actually comes with the fuelling apparatus.

On the hindsight, while government agencies or ministries were cribbing about shortage of budget and huge expenses on fuel, not much has been done in controlling the misuse. Issuing or demanding receipt is part of transactions because there are implications. It has to be accounted for. It is so automatic in many countries where our officials or decision makers studied or visited.

However, to quote the old cliché again, it is better late than never. The office of consumer protection has started it with a formal launch. More than deterring the drivers, accountability will improve. Fuel stations should not be first and last.

More than consumer protection, the simple rule of issuing receipts, original, not hand written, could save the government coffer millions. Beyond the fuel stations, how many of our businesses issue receipts? This is plainly evading tax. Customs officials base their assessment on the books of account. When sales are not reflected it leaves room for manipulation.

The other implication is receipts, even if issued is bloated at the counter. Today when you ask a shopkeeper for a receipt, the first question is how much should I put? Meaning the receipt is manipulated and money is stolen.

There is an old saying that thieves have many ways to escape while those chasing them only one. The receipt system is not fool proof. Drivers will have the last laugh if there are other tricks up their sleeves.

The problem is beyond receipts. If it is ingrained in the system, it will solve only half the problem.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    So many of fuel gauges provided at the vehicles we use today can give us readings on amount fuelled into the car’s tank and fuel burnt between refuelling stops and inside that mechanical gem of an Internal Combustion engine. The accuracy may carry a scope of a 5 percent error; but otherwise the readings remain accurate unless the driver is an expert technician who can easily manipulate things in the vehicle ECU maps. The problem here is that not all government or public vehicles come fitted with such on board fuel gauges. But it’s possible that the authorities decide to get one fitted in every vehicle and the technology involved shouldn’t cost a lot per unit.

    But the good thing is that with a e-slip generation mechanism in place at the fuel stations, we are probably addressing a step higher in the vertical business chain. In the business of petroleum refining, transportation, distribution and disbursements through retailers; the machine at the fuel stations generating e-receipts comes at the end. But such transparent policy in place does make sure that we remain doubly assured with the auditing procedures for accounting principles in the business of fuel transportation and distribution. Just like transmission losses in hydro power business; there are transportation losses to negotiate in fuel transportation as well. So these e-receipt generating machines when installed not only save the government coffers, but it also makes the distribution business of fuel more efficient. Only challenge is to meet the capital investment required to procure and install the asset of the machines.

    There is a very unusually practical joke shared among hydro power engineers that says…no river system that doesn’t overflow can produce a business model for hydro power; but only the flow of water can produce electricity. With e-receipt getting generated at the fuel pumps, even the fuel tanks at the vehicles must come fitted with an overflow alarm to alert the vehicle to auto shut its fuel tank lid. Fuel spilled due to accidental overflows may not help the GNH philosophy of the nation. But it doesn’t even drain any government coffer; does it? If in certain Chinese cuisines the preferable cooking culture demands either deep or stir frying methodical approach; many of us prefer to have our foods shallow fried in non-stick utensils for healthy living.

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