A new ‘Prevention and Combating of Corruption Act, 2007’ has been passed by parliament and signed by President Kikwete.
The Law Reform Commission had earlier stated that the Prevention of Corruption Bureau (PCB) was not able to combat corruption effectively because of structural weaknesses, lack of government support and inadequacies in the previous Act of 1971. International donor agencies had also been pressing government to take action.
The new Act contains preventive and enforcement measures.
It establishes a new ‘Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau’ (PCCB) whose work will be overseen administratively by a Board comprising members drawn from the private sector, civil society and the general public.
The number of corruption offences which can result in prosecution has been substantially increased and now includes: corrupt contracts, procurement, auctions, employment, and bribery of foreign public officials, sexual favours, embezzlement, and conspiracy. It allows for the freezing of assets, protection of whistle-blowers and protection of witnesses and victims.
But many Tanzanians have been highly critical. In particular, according to the Guardian, there had been uproar on a clause in the Act said to be limiting the freedom of the press.
Representatives acting under the umbrella of the ‘Coalition for Advocacy of Freedom of Information and Expression’, which includes the Media Council of Tanzania, Media Owners Association, Tanzania Media Women’s Association, the Human Rights Centre, Tanzania Gender Network and the Tanganyika Law Society protested strongly to the Parliamentary Committee on Social Welfare and Community Development about Section 37 (1) of the Act. They said it infringed on freedom of the press because it prevented the media or individual persons from reporting alleged offences under investigation by the PCCB. The Act didn’t describe procedures that were to be followed to make officials of the Bureau responsible when they announced cases or names of people under investigation. It would therefore be very difficult for any person, including journalists, to know that a particular issue was under investigation. They further stated that ordinary people would be denied the right to give information and it would be difficult for the PCCB itself to get information on people who were engaged in corrupt practices for the fear that at the end of the day, the informants would be taken to task. The Act also prohibits MP’s from discussing people they suspect may have been involved in corruption.
The Human Rights Network (FEMACT) urged President Kikwete not to assent to the Act. FEMACT President Buberwa Kaiza said that the bill had lots of shortcomings and would punish ordinary citizens while letting bigwigs go free. Lots of areas had been left out, such as the conduct of elections and the requirement that the Bureau would be answerable to the President and not be independent. He added that there were burning issues that would never come under the Act, such as the IPTL (electricity) case, the controversial BAE radar case, the privatisation of the National Bank of Commerce (NBC) and the Tanzania Telecommunications Limited (TTCL) – Nipashe.
Meanwhile, some sixty Prevention of Corruption Bureau investigators have attended a workshop on techniques to fight corruption supported by the US Agency for International Development and conducted by five members from the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI). The team learned about modern surveillance techniques, intelligence gathering and preparation of high-profile cases for courts and increasing media exposure of successful corruption prosecutions in order to create deterrence.
The DOI presentations were designed for senior PCB investigators who would be handling sensitive corruption cases involving high-profile political figures. He said the objective of the training was to reduce corruption by half in the country’s local, district and central government agencies.