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Foreign donors criticise Tanzania over slow pace on fighting graft

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 9 Dec 2013 05:24 PM
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A general picture shows the skyline of Tanzania's port cty of Dar es Salaam, July 12, 2013. Tanzania's commercial capital looks like a boom town even before cash rolls in from gas discoveries that in the next few years could make the east African nation a major energy exporter. REUTERS/Andrew Emmanuel
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DAR ES SALAAM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Foreign donors have warned Tanzania that the government must take stronger action and deploy all its weapons in fighting public corruption and improving governance, especially in the energy, mining and health sectors.

“There has been stagnation in the fight against corruption, including a lack of movement on specific anti-corruption cases in key sectors like health, the port and energy,” said Lennarth Hjelmåker, the Swedish ambassador to Tanzania, who chairs the donors group. 

In an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation, Hjelmåker said Tanzania needs to become more active, using both its criminal prosecution and civil sanction powers, and place corruption high on its agenda.  

Not all corruption cases should end up in court since the government can take administrative actions such as demotions, suspensions, warning and dismissal to deter petty corruption, he said.

The donors, who have committed $560 million in General Budget Support (GBS) this year, will track progress as part of their ongoing dialogue with the government over aid disbursements, he said.

“It seems that there is still an underuse of administrative sanctions for corruption offences … we strongly encourage the government to intensify results-focused action in this area,” Hjelmaker said.

In 2010, donors slashed funding pledges for Tanzania’s 2010/11 budget by $220 million. Tanzania is the world’s biggest per capita aid recipient.

However, some analysts are skeptical the latest bout of foreign pressure will have much impact on a government with such a long record of corruption – as long as aid keeps flowing.

“I don’t think donors will withdraw development aid to Tanzania any time soon because aid is a strategic way of finding new partners and also a way to push through their various policies to the receiving countries,” said Azaveli Rwaitama, a political analyst at the University of Dar es Salaam.

“The government itself knows that donors will not withdraw aid, so the last thing they (the government) will do is threaten to speed up the fight against graft,” he said.

 “Our government is itself a product of corruption therefore it cannot seriously fight corruption,” he added.

GRAFT CASES PENDING

The Swedish diplomat did not cite individual cases, but he referred to investigations into officials at the state-run utility company TANESCO, the Tanzania Ports Authority, and at the permanent secretaries of the Energy and Minerals Ministry and Health Ministry. 

In response, the head of Tanzania's Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) Edward Hosea defended his agency’s track record, noting that while investigations of some corruption cases have been completed and forwarded to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), few have led to court cases.

The PCCB director general said he was frustrated by the bureaucratic system requiring corruption files to go to the prosecutor for a final decision, but there is a procedure which must be followed before charges can be formally filed.

“We usually conduct investigations and forward the files to the office of the DPP for his review, in the process the cases are getting delayed,” Hosea said in an interview.

Earlier this year, Tanzania's Controller and Auditor General (CAG) recommended that corruption charges be brought against William Mhando, the former managing director of the state-run power firm TANESCO for allegedly flouting the company’s procedures with intent to embezzle public funds after he awarded a contract worth 880 million Tanzanian shillings ($554,500) to a private company he jointly owns with his wife.

Tanzania's energy sector has in recent years been marred by graft allegations. In 2011, the parliament dissolved one of its committees on energy and minerals after some of its members were accused of soliciting bribes.

David Jairo, the former permanent secretary of the Energy and Minerals Ministry, was forced to retire after a member of parliament released a letter purportedly written by Jairo in which he solicited 30 million Tanzanian shillings in contributions from his ministerial agencies and departments, allegedly to bribe MPs to pass a fraudulent budget.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Eliezer Feleshi said his office only acts on strong cases. 

“We do prosecute when we have sufficient evidence at hand, we cannot take blame for cases where the evidence is insufficient,” he said.

Donors have repeatedly warned the government to enforce its zero-tolerance policy on corruption and misuse of public funds since evidence of real progress is crucial for future aid disbursements.

The donors that provide General Budget Support to Tanzania include the African Development Bank, Canada, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and the World Bank.

 

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