Tanzania: Does latest audit point to gross mismanagement under late president Magufuli?

By Abdul Halim, in Dar es Salaam

Posted on Tuesday, 20 April 2021 15:29
A man reads a copy of the Kenyan Daily Nation morning newspaper reporting the death of Tanzania's President John Magufuli on a street in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, March 18, 2021. Headline in Swahili reads "Goodbye Magufuli." (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

It's been a month since the sudden passing of Tanzania's former president John Pombe Magufuli who promoted good governance. However, the latest audit report by the controller and auditor general (CAG) brings to light some problems and questionable decisions under the watch of the late President and his administration.

The CAG report, for the financial year ending in June 2020, was submitted to parliament on 8 April.

Since its publication, it has sparked much debate in the ensuing parliamentary sessions in Dodoma, with some MPs calling for restraint in attacks against those supporting Magufuli and his legacy.

“No one can harm president Magufuli’s legacy because he did his best. But we should not call our fellow colleagues traitors when they provide different opinions,” says January Makamba, an MP from Bumbuli constituency who was sacked by Magufuli while serving as minister of state for environment and union matters.

Livingstone Lusinde, MP from Mvumi, says Tanzania cannot maintain peace and security while some people are busy mocking what was done by the late President.

Economic analyst Haji Kaburu says Magufuli may have had good intentions, but his officials were thinking about their own interests.

At the heart of the matter is that the CAG highlighted problems in Tanzania’s financial situation, despite the rosy picture painted by Magufuli and his government at the time.

Air Tanzania

According to the CAG, national carrier Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) was among the major loss-making government entities.

The CAG says ATCL lost more than TSh60bn ($28m) recently and has lost more than TSh150bn in the past five years.

“We have discovered that in the past five years, ATCL has been making losses annually. There are several challenges that the government ought to address immediately,” CAG Charles Kichere told The Citizen newspaper.

During Magufuli’s time, officials at ATCL claimed that the national carrier was making profits. In the 2018 financial year, the then government spokesman Hassan Abbas claimed that Air Tanzania made a profit of TSh28bn.

The late Magufuli was quoted several times saying that Air Tanzania was making a profit and contributing to national revenue.

“In the case of this matter, how can we say Magufuli was wrong, when the issue of permits is a matter to be regulated by ministers? They were responsible to make sure the President succeeded in his mission. Magufuli’s legacy will continue to be defended for years to come,” Economic analyst Haji Kaburu told The Africa Report.

Professor Mussa Assad, the immediate former CAG who was sacked by Magufuli, says the government missed opportunities. “The late president Magufuli’s administration lacked a focused business plan to improve the country. They were actually not thinking about the good of this country,” said Assad during a seminar organised by the Muslim University of Morogoro on 11 April. He said 60% of government officials are incompetent.

But Laurean Ndumbarao, the permanent secretary to the President’s office of public service management and good governance, disputed this claim during a televised programme on 15 April. He said civil servants had been contributing “immensely to the public service” and referred to Assad as a “coward”.

Zitto Kabwe, an economist and leader of the opposition party the Alliance for Change and Transparency,, says the CAG report reveals that the late president Magufuli was lying to Tanzanians.

“We have been advising the government to have a business plan, but it refused to listen. Now the CAG report is saying what we have been saying for the past five years: Magufuli’s administration had no any business plan to run Air Tanzania,” Kabwe tells The Africa Report.

Foreign workers without work permits

The CAG’s report on development projects also reveals how the government lost more than TSh3bn to the Turkish-owned Yapi Merkezi company because of poor oversight on work permits.

The privately owned contracting company built the first and second phases of the standard gauge railway from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma. Of the 2,408 foreign workers used, only 1,538 had work permits, despite the requirements of Section 9 (2) (a) of the Foreign Citizens Employment Act of 2015.

Economic analyst Haji Kaburu says Magufuli may have had good intentions, but his officials were thinking about their own interests.

“In the case of this matter, how can we say Magufuli was wrong, when the issue of permits is a matter to be regulated by ministers? They were responsible to make sure the President succeeded in his mission. Magufuli’s legacy will continue to be defended for years to come,” he told The Africa Report.

Nyerere hydroelectric power station used outdated feasibility study

The CAG report also indicates how the Tanzania Electricity Supply Corporation (Tanesco) failed to update all aspects of a feasibility study conducted for the construction of the $2.9bn Julius Nyerere hydropower project.

Rather than commission new studies, Tanesco relied on feasibility studies conducted from 1970 and 1972 by the Norwegian company M/S Norconsult.

The agency was also using a project plan and technical investigation report conducted by M/S Hafslund and M/S Norpaln (both from Norway) that updated the feasibility study in 1980.

“Factors that have not been reviewed and revitalised include the economic and financial research of the project, availability of water surveys and sustainable project management,” the CAG report says.

It says senior Tanesco officials who spoke to the CAG pointed out that the feasibility study, which was conducted in the 1970s, deemed the project to be technically and economically feasible.

But its proposed construction had stirred much controversy, given that it would cut through the country’s largest wildlife reserve, the Selous Game Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Research conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature also warned of possible negative impacts on the Rufjii-Mafia-Kilwa Marine Ramsar site, specifically affecting livelihoods of some 200,000 people who are dependent on the Rufjii River.

During his time, Magufuli claimed several times that his government followed due process before launching construction the Nyerere hydropower project.

He and his administration set aside concerns from external partners and went ahead with the project.

“Let the whites says what they want but we are a sovereign country. We will do our best despite their noise that we are harming the environment,” Magufuli said during the inauguration of the project in 2019. He said its construction was the start of Tanzania’s “economic liberation”.

Education sector

The CAG report highlights the current situation of education in Tanzania. It reveals how low level of supervision has had a negative impact on primary, secondary and tertiary education across the country.

“For example, there was a shortage of inspectors controlling for the quality of education of those with special needs, whereby reports shows there were only 98 out of 1,306 inspectors required,” says the report.

Magufuli had said his government was providing free primary and secondary education (up to fourth form). His administration claimed to have spent more than TSh1trn on this provision.

But education analysts have long been saying officials are mismanaging public funds. “Despite the fact that the funding was not enough, local officials were stuffing money into their pockets. We witnessed schools upcountry lacking proper infrastructure,” says Adam Mussa, an education specialist based in Mtwara.

Experts call for more institution building

Since Magufuli’s death on 17 March, his successor President Samia Suluhu Hassan has taken a different approach, including:

  • Lifting a ban on some media outlets;
  • Requesting the creation of a Covid-19 task force;
  • Sacking some of Magufuli’s loyalists, including chief secretary Bashiru Ally;
  • Ordering a special audit of all funds released from January to March of this year from the Bank of Tanzania.

Economist Haji Semboja says the loss in billions of shillings in the 2019/2020 financial year was a result of weak laws and systems in place to run institutions.

“This is a result of competitiveness in appointing people in key positions, and as a result some laws were ignored,” added Semboja in an interview with The Guardian newspaper.

Experts say it is time for President Hassan to add more oversight into the system.

Professor Honest Ngowi of Mzumbe University tells The Africa Report that the CAG audit is a good point of reference for the government to see what went wrong and rectify problems.

“The CAG has done a commendable job by indicating areas of revenue losses and mismanagement of public funds. The authorities should take recommendations and work on that. Those responsible should be held to account,” he says.

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