The CCM MP for Nzega described, in the investigative newspaper ‘This Day’ how he saw the controversial goings-on within Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL), which has a long-term management contract with government as bearing all the hallmarks of something similar to the Richmond electricity corruption scandal. He alleged that new reports of a contract for the leasing of locomotive engines and coaches from India were ‘scandalous.’
Under this agreement TRL would eventually be forced to pay huge capacity charges for 25 locomotive engines and 23 coaches. In addition the financially-troubled TRL had already had to pay a substantial sum for the shipment of the engines from India to Dar es Salaam. He said that the contract should be terminated forthwith. TRL Managing Director Hundi Lal Chaudhary said these allegations were not true. He admitted that TRL was in a critical financial situation, but insisted that both the shareholders (RITES and the Tanzanian Government) are supposed to find a lasting joint solution. RITES Limited owns 51% of the shares while the Government has 49%.
The government said that a special task force appointed to review the TRL privatisation contract with a view to amending some of the key provisions, had already completed its task. Railway sources reported to ‘This Day’ that the TRL expatriate management had grounded seven Canadian and UK-made locomotives to pave the way for their replacement by leased engines from India. According to the sources, TRL planned to sell off the once-dependable locomotives of the 88-class, traditionally used by the railways since when it was a state-owned enterprise, as scrap in preference for the leased engines from India.
Some TRL workers are said to have accused the RITES management of sabotage in its bid to scrap the 88-class engines in favour of the costly and less reliable Indian engines. These reports were later confirmed by Managing Director Chaudhary.
There was an ongoing debate as to which type of engine was the more powerful. Some said that the Canadian and UK-type engines were still the best and most widely-used all over the world. They were still working and in good condition, compared to Indian engines which were said to “frequently malfunction” others said.
It has also been claimed that unilateral decisions by the TRL management to dispose of the old locomotives would amount to a breach of the lease contract between RITES and the Tanzanian Government. Some railway workers were said to have accused the management of planning to create a market for Indian-made locomotives and spare parts in Tanzania by hook or by crook. It has been alleged that the intention is that if the Government eventually decides to terminate the RITES contract, TRL will be left with leased Indian locomotives that will still had to be paid for, probably at inflated costs.
Managing Director Chaudhary confirmed the reports of the grounding of seven running locomotives and plans for their replacement with Indian-made engines. “We have decided to use the Indian-made locomotive engines because they are more powerful than the Canadian and UK types,’’ he said.
RITES Limited of India and the Tanzanian Government signed a 25-year concession agreement for the
2,700-kilometre state railway network in 2007. In parliament Zitto Kabwe MP said there had been few bidders for the railway corporation at the time as a result of which government was forced to hand 51% to the Indian firm RITES.
TRL said that it had started repairing its locomotives in a bid to improve services. Speaking to reporters during the offloading of two rehabilitated engines at the Dar es Salaam port, TRL executive director Mukesh Rathore said that the locomotives were overhauled to increase their pulling capacities from 20 wagons to 25 wagons each. The engines would be tested at the company’s major workshop in Morogoro before they started operating. He said that since 1973 when the engines were bought they had never been overhauled. He said the remaining engines would be repaired at the Morogoro workshop.
TRL said they had a total of 22 engines, though only seven were functioning properly. 26 passenger wagons had been repaired and the plan was to repair all the 82 wagons by mid 2010 – Guardian.
As this issue of TA went to press the East African reported that high level discussions were going on in India, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda on a possible restructuring of the railway to incorporate Rwanda and Burundi.