PRESIDENT OPENS A PANDORA’S BOX IN FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Tanzanian government ministers used to be treated with considerable
respect as they toured the country to explain government policies to the people. In recent months however, seemingly encouraged by President Kikwete to reveal corruption whenever they see it, the people have responded actively by heckling ministers as they speak and demanding action against those they accuse.
At the same time the media have begun to pursue corruption with enthusiasm and are causing much embarrassment to the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party and the Government. The normally quiescent and divided opposition parties led by CHADEMA, the leading party on the mainland, and including the leading opposition party in Zanzibar the Civic United Front (CUF), and the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) have joined together in tackling the government on a whole series of corruption related issues.
Nationwide elections for new leaders in the CCM Party made things worse. People witnessed widespread bribery and corruption as competition between candidates became more fierce than ever before.
Meanwhile, the newly created Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) with its new powers is also now beginning to show some teeth as it investigates corruption cases around the country.
THE MAIN ALLEGATIONS
Among the numerous alleged corruption cases being investigated are
1) The Bank of Tanzania (BoT)
Serious allegations have been made about what were described as dubious payments of some $200m (there are different figures of up to $800 million) from the Bank’s commercial external debt account. Bank Governor Dr Daudi Bilali (65) denied any involvement in these payments saying the allegations were based on rumours.
However, the allegations were so serious that Minister for Finance Mrs Zakia Meghji brought in an independent auditor of international repute (Ernst & Young) to review the Bank’s transactions. They were asked to assess the Bank’s internal controls, examine the disputed payments and check whether the transactions in question were bona fide, were conducted in accordance with agreed arrangements and had supporting documents. The report of these external auditors was finally completed at the end of the year, but, even before it was presented by the Controller and Auditor General to President Kikwete, journalists began their own investigations to find out what it had said. As this issue of TA went to press various unconfirmed revelations were published in the Swahili press. For example:
– Bilali was in America and lying sick in a hospital in Boston
– Bilali was staying in his house in Maryland – he used to work for the World Bank
– Majira made enquiries in Boston about his whereabouts but no one seemed to know where he was
– According to Mtanzania Bilali had written to President Kikwete asking to retire since he was ‘physically unable to continue working.’ Yet the Director of Communications at the State House, and Minister for Finance both denied that Balali had tendered his resignation.
– Two Deputy Bank Governors were appointed
– The opposition were calling for Bilali to be repatriated and prosecuted
– Secretary General of CHADEMA, Dr Wilbroad Slaa, called upon President Kikwete to appoint an independent commission of enquiry as there were many accusations against the Bank and its Governor which were not covered by the external auditors. He gave the example of the construction of the BoT twin towers which had cost millions of dollars. He said the audit report had been reviewed by officials on December 21 and that it was likely to be doctored before it was handed over to the President.
STOP PRESS – BANK GOVERNOR SACKED
President Kikwete announced on January 7th 2008 that he had sacked Governor Daudi Balali of the Bank of Tanzania after two external audit reports revealed that TShs 99 billion had been paid by the Bank to 13 companies based on fake and forged documents and TShs 46 billion had been paid out without supporting documents. Two of the companies apparently did not exist. The President also directed the Attorney General, the Police and the PCCB to take appropriate action against all involved in these deals.
A former World Bank specialist Dr Benno Ndulu was appointed as the new Governor.
2) The Buzwagi (also spelt ‘Buzwegi’) Issue
The Barrick Gold mining company requested permission to open new mine at Buzwagi and the government agreed. For reasons not understood the agreement was signed not in Dar es Salaam but in London and not in the Tanzanian High Commission but in the Churchill Hotel.
State House announced that Minister of Minerals and Energy, Nazir Karamagi, was not bound to inform President Kikwete while signing the contract in London. But the Presidential press secretary said that the Attorney General was involved in the negotiations and he was aware of the signing and President Kikwete had been kept informed – Habari Leo.
3) The BAE Radar Saga
The saga of the BAE radar deal, which has been covered exhaustively in many issues of Tanzanian Affairs (view), has now been taken to court in Tanzania after the PCCB decided that there was a case to answer and sufficient evidence to convict the people involved in the deal – Mtanzania.
The Guardian reported that one of the principal accused, Shailesh Vithlani, who was said to have lied and caused the government to suffer colossal losses was still at large. In the circumstances, the case was adjourned until January 12th 2008. The court was of the opinion that he was now living in the UK. It was stated that the accused, acting as an agent, had received $12.39 million.
4) The Richmond Electricity Contract.
The US-based Richmond Development Company, which undertook a $179 million government project to supply 100 MW of emergency electric generators in 2007, failed to complete the project at a time when the country was facing a severe power shortage. Many questions were raised over what actually happened at the awarding of the tender and the government subsequently appointed a task force to investigate the matter – Tanzania Daima.
At the end of the year Speaker of the National Assembly, Samuel Sitta, announced that he had received the report of the task force and it would probably be discussed in the next parliamentary session scheduled for the end of January 2008. It was reported that only four out of 75 witnesses had volunteered to give information and the rest had to be summoned to appear before the task force. Some were reported to have apologised for lying when called back for further questioning – Guardian.
5) President Mkapa
The next person to come under attack was former President Benjamin Mkapa. There was surprise when the opposition began to make allegations against him.
While addressing thousands of people at a rally in Shinyanga, veteran former CHADEMA leader Bob Makani announced that he intended to sue him. Makani said some people were misinterpreting the Constitution by assuming that Mkapa had legal protection as a former President but he was not protected for offences committed in his personal capacity but only in his official capacity.
The Director General of the PCCB said the Bureau had no legal authority to probe a former head of state who was facing corruption or other charges. He referred to section 46 of the Constitution which protected present and past presidents against prosecution and added that, the PCCB would be investigating the amassing of wealth by present and retired public employees. “We shall ask them to tell us how they obtained all those mansions disproportionate to their incomes” he said – Habari Leo,
President Mkapa said that he wouldn’t respond to graft accusations against him as he had already retired from politics – Majira.
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