One of Tanzania’s great assets is its reputation for honest government. Its impressive record in obtaining overseas aid from both governments and voluntary organisations has been achieved because those providing the funds know that in Tanzania money and equipment will be used to good purpose and in accordance with agreements. Even the IMF has accepted that loans to Tanzania are well administered.
It is sometimes difficult for outsiders to appreciate the strengths of the pressures against honest government. Much of the writing on Tanzania over the past decade has described and deplored the growth of a privileged class of government and party officials, well paid, with access to cars, houses and luxuries, which set them apart from the majority of the people. This picture is a half truth. Clearly anyone who receives a regular salary and works in an office is in a more comfortable position than a peasant who depends on what the labour of his family can produce from the land available subject to the hazards of rainfall, crop disease, pests and world markets. However, in comparison with their counterparts in most other African countries Tanzania’s civil servants and party officers are not well paid. The 1981 budget gives them their first increase since 1973 (see Bulletin No.5) and in the face of sharply rising prices civil servants have experienced dramatic and painful falls in their living standards. Since many of the more senior civil servants are required to live in the larger towns and are subject to frequent and sudden transfer to other posts, they have little opportunity to grow their own food.
Over the past decade, Tanzania has faced one economic crisis after another, while shortages and problems of distribution have increased. Everyone wants scarce resources to be allocated to their organisation or area. Shortages multiply as bottlenecks produce delays. For example, the country may have produced enough food, but lack of vehicle spares and fuel can hinder distribution and result in urban food shortages.
Speaking in a Reith Lecture twenty years ago Galbraith made the point that countries with plentiful resources can afford good administration, which prevents resources being wasted, whereas countries with scarce resources cannot afford to make mistakes, which waste resources, and also cannot afford the efficient administration, which can prevent mistakes.
Scarce resources mean that decisions have to be made about their allocation and that some people and organisations will have to go without. Under pressure sometimes the wrong decisions will be made; Tanzania’s decision makers are under constant pressure. Undoubtedly it sometimes happens that decisions are influenced by considerations of political advantage, family loyalty, or personal financial gain. The real cause for concern is that so many Tanzanians have come to believe that a significant number of decisions are now subject to such influences.
Government and party leaders are acutely aware of the damage that just the belief that corruption exists can do to national morale at a time when most people are suffering from a shortage of necessities and when many items of everyday use are unobtainable. The Central Committee of the party (Chama cha Mapinduzi- CCM) began to investigate the misapplication of public funds in January. The first consequent dismissals were reported in the last issue of the Bulletin. Subsequently, the chairman and all members of the Tanganyika Pyrethrum Board were suspended for bad financial management – they had used money loaned for crop purchase to pay the Board’s administrative costs. All these cases, it must be emphasised, have involved mismanagement, not corruption.
Personal gain does seem to have been the motive at Tanzania Elimu Supplies, where it was found that stationery had been sent to private shops while TES shops had no supplies. The general manager and Dar es Salaam zonal manager were dismissed and other officials in the organisation demoted. Party leaders have not been exempt from enquiry. The Mwanza Regional Commissioner, Abdulmum Suleiman, was dismissed by the President after local party members had complained of his activities and had asked ‘relieve us of this burden’.
The Central Committee continues its investigations, although since February its findings have not been made public. It can be argued that publicity would increase public confidence, but most enquiries now concern breaches of the Arusha Declaration leadership code and these are not crimes.
A recent scandal that has raised great public indignation concerns the Sugar Corporation (SUDECO). Sugar has been very short in Tanzania this year. Dar es Salaam had been short of sugar for several weeks when it became known that there were large stocks in a store just outside the city, which were being ruined because the store roof did not keep out the rain. It was then discovered that the leaky store had been purchased for a price much in excess of its assessed value. To the sugarless citizens of Dar es Salaam the story seemed to confirm their belief that the shortage was being engineered for somebody’s profit. A statement has been made to the National Assembly and a subcommittee set up by the Assembly, but it seems that the full facts have yet to emerge and it may be a case of one problem leading to another. Sugar distribution had been disrupted when floods damaged a road bridge and sugar piling up at the refinery threatened to halt production. When the bridge was repaired SUDECO was allocated transport and instructed to clear the backlog by a deadline. Storage near Dar es Salaam had to be found urgently. The only available store was privately owned and the owner would not rent, only sell, and SUDECO management had to make a rapid decision. The decision might have been wrong, especially in not undertaking responsibility for repairs rather than leaving it with the former owner, but it has yet to be shown that it was dishonest.
This case illustrates the government’s dilemma. If administration is to function in a country the size of Tanzania, initiative and the taking of responsibility must be encouraged. If organisations and individuals are to be disgraced when they make a mistake, they will be discouraged from taking any decisions. Tanzania cannot afford the mistakes that are being made. The problem is to ensure that proper care is taken before decisions are made while encouraging initiative. The government’s policy is clear. Corruption is unacceptable and it will be fought wherever it appears. It is important that friends of Tanzania should make the distinction between corruption and mismanagement, even if Tanzanians themselves sometimes find the practical effects indistinguishable.