The first signs of success in the battle against corruption are beginning to show. President Mkapa vowed at the last election that he would take firm action against it but during the first three years of his rule there was little visible sign of this. However, during recent weeks every arm of government seems to have been harnessed in the fight and all ministers and administrative officials are coming under heavy pressure from the President to produce results. Some say that he has his eyes on the general elections to be held next year and that he must clean up his act before then. But, if the political climate continues as it is now he has little to fear in the elections and his victory seems certain. He has two major weapons -the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and the Prevention of Corruption Bureau (PCB) and both are now flexing their muscles.
The Revenue Authority has greatly improved revenue collection and stopped a lot of fraud. There are a number of recent examples. A wealthy Dar es Salaam businessman has had his private plane and yacht impounded and two bank accounts frozen by the TRA for alleged tax evasion amounting to $11 million according to the East African (March 15). He has filed suit asking the High Court to prohibit the TRA from conducting any independent assessment of his business. The TRA also claims that the number of businesses registered to collect the old ‘Sales Tax’ was only about 4,000 but almost 11,000 businesses had registered under the new VAT scheme which took its place on June 19, 1996. On March 28 it was reported that 38 traders who had evaded payment of VAT had been fined.
A TRA team also recently ambushed ten people who were unloading bags of sugar, on which customs duty had not been paid, from a dhow at Kunduchi beach near Dar es Salaam. Several others who were involved were said to have plunged into the ocean and avoided arrest. On March 17 eight people were charged in court by the TRA with being found in possession of 269 bags of sugar on which duty had not been paid.
According to the Daily Mail the TRA also seized recently eight containers full of TV’s and video recorders destined for the army. It was believed that tax had not been paid.
The Daily News reported on March 5 that two senior officers of the Authority’s VAT Collection Department in Arusha had been suspended pending investigations into corruption. Two days later the TRA caught 12 Dar es Salaam shopkeepers who had evaded paying VAT -they were fined Shs 2 million each.
The Prevention of Corruption Bureau (PCB) which has recently recruited and trained 80 additional officers, is also beginning to bare its teeth in the fight against corruption.
A traffic police sergeant in Dar es Salaam was caught when a tractor owner paid him a Shs 30,000 bribe to get his tractor released (it had been impounded for not having an indicator). He was found in possession of 36 driving licenses. Regional Police Commander Alfred Gewe asked those drivers whose licenses had been confiscated by the police and whose cases had not been reported to the police to come and see him in person.
The Bureau is holding a Dodoma Resident Magistrate for soliciting a Shs 50,000 bribe from a widow. Next day the Bureau caught red handed a Dar es Salaam businessman posing as a State House official who had accepted a Shs 6 million bribe to certify a maize consignment (in a warehouse on Nyerere Road) as being of good quality. He agreed not to close the warehouse. Two days later it was learned that the Dar es Salaam Health Commissioner and three of his subordinates were being questioned about the same case because they had been seen with the alleged suspect.
On March 3 five traffic police officers were sacked after seizing a truck containing stolen bales of clothes and then accepting a bribe of three bales worth Shs 1.2 million to release it.
On March 9 Health Minister Dr. Aaron Chidua announced that 85 of the Ministry’s employees including 19 doctors and 37 medical assistants were being investigated for possible corruption. On March 13, a doctor at the Mount Meru Hospital was arrested having accepted a bribe of Shs 4,000 which was paid in notes marked by the PCB. But the Minister pointed out that people were often afraid to report incidents under his ministry because of their fear of retaliation from medical practitioners.
Some 9,700 debtors of the defunct Tanzania Housing Bank have been instructed to repay loans amounting to Shs 12 billion by June 30 or have their houses auctioned. The Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF) are reported to have suspended two senior officers and several NCO’s following allegations that they demanded Shs 150,000 as bribes in a recruitment ‘scam’. Some 8,000 youths were said to have been swindled out of Shs 1.2 billion last year.
Answering criticisms that the PCB concentrated only on ‘small fish’ its head said that the problem was that nobody was offering evidence on which to bring about the arrest of the ‘big fish’. She published the Bureau’s telephone and fax numbers.
Minister fur Communications and Transport Ernest Nyanda announced on March 4 that five senior officials including the Managing Director of the Air Tanzania Corporation (ATC) had been suspended in connection with massive misappropriation of funds including the embezzlement of Shs 300 million. They were alleged to have been involved in the theft of Jet fuel and tampering with the flying hours on log books.
Representatives of eight donor agencies recently commended Tanzania for the seriousness with which it was fighting corruption. They were discussing with President Mkapa a State House publication entitled ‘Tanzania’s Third Phase Government’s fight against corruption: A brief on achievements and challenges 1995/99’
The President stated that following the publication of the Warioba Report on corruption the government had:
-removed 20,000 ‘ghost’ civil servants;
-dismissed 800 revenue collection officials;
-retired nine senior officials of the Immigration Department, ten in the Police Force, five from the Prisons Department, six from the Office of the Prime Minister (including Regional Development Directors), and 41 from the Ministry of Works;
-three magistrates had been dismissed, 43 magistrates retired and five court brokers had had their licenses revoked;
-five parastatal chief executives had been retired;
-a Finance Minister and his deputy and a Minister of Natural Resources had lost their positions.
But, according to the Daily News, the President said that he would not ‘succumb to the slippery path of being an inquisitor of his predecessor’s government’. The results of the direction to Regional and District Commissioners to conduct public hearings on corruption had been good and legal and administrative actions were being taken by the appropriate authorities.
People are beginning to notice the change.