Bad tenders

Tanzania: Will Samia crack the whip on ministries over irregular deals in audit report?

By Joseph Burite

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Posted on June 6, 2023 08:30

EzoZudDXEAIdki7 © File photo of Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan (twitter/ @SuluhuSamia)
File photo of Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan (twitter/ @SuluhuSamia)

Tanzanian public officials are bracing for punitive action as President Samia Suluhu Hassan signals her intent to address irregularities cited in the latest controller and auditor general report, which covers the 2021/2022 financial year.

The head of state might have to wait for the report to make its way through procedural hearings in parliament that sits in the political capital of Dodoma. Even as she does so, her appointment of High Court judge George Masaju as her legal advisor seemingly foreshadows any preparation for stern measures likely to be taken by the nation’s top executive.

Samia received the audit report on 29 March and consequently sacked the Tanzania Railways Corporation Board as well as John Nzulule, the director of Tanzania Government Flight Agency. The ouster is suspected to have been linked to a separate but unpublicised report by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau.

The two agencies are at the core of signature infrastructure projects – a standard gauge railway and acquisition of aeroplanes -projects that began when Samia served as vice president to the late John Pombe Magufuli.

That the president took swift action underscores the sensitivity that her government attaches to the railway project and the need to keep it scandal-free, considering that more financing must be raised (some from international sources) to complete the remaining phases.

Irregular public procurement practices

In the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) report seen by The Africa Report, as many as 338 Tanzanian government entities were audited, with several queries raised over irregular public procurement practices.

  • The home affairs ministry was scrutinised for ordering fire rescue vehicles from a company that did not prequalify for the tender process.
  • The ministry of education, science and technology was caught in a scandal involving the purchase of a large quantity of bags. The report did not specify the details, only stating that the contract for the bags was arranged without the involvement of the attorney general.
  • Five entities were also found to have implemented projects valued at TSh151bn ($63.8m) using expired bank performance bonds.
  • Another eight entities are said to have executed projects worth TSh547bn without undertaking environmental impact assessments as required by law.
  • A Tsh10bn ($4.2m) partnership between the Tanzanian ministry of health and UNICEF for procurement of ambulances was found to have missed targeted timelines for delivery
  • 36 government entities were cited for obtaining goods and services worth Tsh46bn ($19.4m) without using the country’s electronic procurement system, which is mandatory.
  • Having failed to recover as much as TSh88bn for leasing aircraft to Air Tanzania Corporation Limited, the Tanzania Government Flight Agency was also found to be insolvent by the CAG report.
  • The country’s National Identification Authority was found to have failed to deliver over seven million identity cards, falling short of its annual target of about 10 million cards.

Parliamentarians and others have been demanding punitive action after the release of these two agency reports, but the speaker, Tulia Ackson, has called for patience, citing House procedures.

Whereas the opinions and recommendations of the CAG tend to generate public debate in Tanzania, they don’t constitute an indictment. The public entities cited get an opportunity to respond to parliamentary oversight committees where the issues raised may be resolved or escalated to investigative agencies.

Waiting for parliament

Signalling readiness to act, Samia – in her 9 April statement – directed all accounting officers  to respond to the CAG report and act on recommendations. Failure to follow through, she said, will result in legal action.

Focus Mauki, spokesman for the CAG’s office, also known as the National Audit Office of Tanzania, tells The Africa Report that the CAG’s assessment has already been submitted to parliament and legislators will likely debate it in November.

This means that parliament committees, particularly Public Accounts, will conduct hearings based on the report, after which plenary sessions that involve the whole House can debate and adopt or reject the recommendations.

“Let’s wait for the [next] step for now,” says Mauki, declining to further comment on the matter.

Members of the opposition, who are usually eager to paint the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party as corrupt, have indicated their willingness to wait for the hearing.

“As chairperson of the public accounts committee, I cannot give any comment until after the hearing with concerned people has been conducted,” says Nanghejwa Livingtsone Kaboyoka, a member of CHADEMA party who chairs the Tanzanian parliament’s public accounts committee.

“I cannot judge those mentioned in the CAG’s report before hearing them,” she said.

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